Back to the Basics – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 22:34-46

I was an elementary school teacher before entering the monastery.  One of the things a teacher learns is that it’s important from time to time – particularly after the summer break – to go back to the basics.  You can’t build or make progress without a good foundation, so it’s important to make sure your students have a solid grasp of the basics before moving on to new or more challenging subjects.

Going back to the basics appears to be what Jesus the teacher is doing here.  Our gospel text today comes at the end of several tests that the Pharisees and scribes have put before Jesus.  It is clear that their intention is to trap him[i] into saying something that would either offend the authorities or turn the crowds against him.  To this point, he has successfully eluded these traps.

Here is another trap.  “Teacher,” someone asks, “which commandment is the greatest?”  If they can trick Jesus into picking a favorite command, he’ll be guilty of downplaying the other commandments.  Since every commandment represents the very word of God, picking and choosing among them would be heretical. They are trying to force him into an impossible situation where any answer he gives can be challenged.  I suppose it’s a little like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite.  Choosing one of their children will make the others feel less important or less loved.  The wise parent will say, “I love them all the same. Read More