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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

When people asked Jesus questions, it was often with a view to trapping him into saying something that would be incriminating. The scribe who came in today’s gospel was different. He seemed genuinely interested in listening carefully to what Jesus had to say. The scribes had an important role in the society of the day. They were responsible for drawing up legal documents, they copied sacred manuscripts and devoted themselves to the study of the Law. They would study scripture with a view to explaining it Mark portrays them as the greatest opponents of Jesus. They were obviously very well educated and used to being deferred to by the people. Many of them thought that they had nothing at all to learn from Jesus.

His answer impressed the scribe, who would have been familiar with the six hundred commandments in Jewish law. He would have known that Jesus was not referring to anything new but going back to Deuteronomy 6:2-6 and Leviticus 19:18.

In the Arthurian legend of Parsifal, the young knight had to ask the right question in order to cure the Fisher King’s wound and therefore that of his realm. The unnamed scribe in today’s story asked the right question and was rewarded with a reply which opened for him a vista of the Kingdom of God. Moreover, he was told he was not far from it.