Many devout and law abiding Jews would see the Shema as a biblical commandment. The Shema is Jesus’ response to the scribe who asked him in today’s Gospel “Which is the first of these commandments?” (Mark 12:28). “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One'' this prayer is traditionally recited amongst Jews during morning and evening prayer as well as the concluding prayer on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews and at the moment of death. It’s recitation and memorization is vital to understanding how to keep God at the front of your life, to reinforce that there is only one God and to love him above all else. The art of continuously examining one's conscience when mastered is a beautiful gateway into a devout prayer life and relationship with God.
What is so smart about Jesus’ response is not only did he know now he would have the attention of the Jews gathered but he gave us the road map on how to do this. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) It is human nature to love the things of someone you love. Jesus is helping us for times when it’s hard to love God when he seems so distant. But God loves all of us and all of his creation, he saw it good, so if it becomes a struggle to love God, love his creation and your neighbor for you will then love God.