One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In today’s Gospel, a scribe who engaged Jesus in dialogue with is told—in encouragement and even perhaps accolade—that he is not far from the Kingdom of God. What has the scribe done to receive this reassurance from Jesus that he has “answered with understanding”? Described his love for God over all else? Given a few examples of how he cares for his neighbor? No: he simply listened. He listened to Jesus’ answer about the greatest two commandments, and then, slightly paraphrasing, repeated it back to him.
Anyone with a skilled spiritual director, therapist, or wise friend might recognize this activity. It demonstrates attention and care without suggesting solutions or providing opinions on what has been shared. The listener feels understood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “[we] forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Today’s scribe gives us a small lesson in the value of such service.
—Catherine Ruffing Drotleff current serves as Development Director for the Ignatian Spirituality Project, based in Chicago IL.
Lord, when we feel rushed, overwhelmed by all the commitments, slow us down. Let your Spirit remind us to keep perspective. If we but take a few minutes to be in your presence, to speak from our heart and wait on you, we will be centered and fortified to better serve others. We thank you for those in our day who will refresh us and help us to be more content, more joyful, and more giving.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team