16Mar 16 March. Friday of Week 3 of Lent

Ho 14:2ff. Those who are wise understand these things: how God supports those who trust in Him.

Mark 12:28ff. Responding to a lawyer’s question, Jesus gives his basic principles of love.

A Living Dialogue

These two Bible passages are in the style of dialogue and offer an excellent way of praying the Sacred Scriptures, as Lectio Divina. We are to consider not only God or Jesus immediately present before us, but the larger community of Israel or the Church also in our group. The authors – in today’s readings Hosea and Mark – add their own comments at the end; after all, they edited or arranged the material. The thrust of each dialogue is conversion, something more than turning aside from sin. In Hosea it is to “return to the Lord, your God”; in Mark, it involves love towards God and neighbour – and thereby a proper love for oneself. This desire for God is both practical and prayerful, not a merely theoretical response.

Both Hosea and Jesus speak in the language of the ancient Scriptures which they had learned from participating in the liturgy. Liturgical celebrations on earth reflect the beauty and peace of heavenly life. Heaven’s dew, Hosea states, rests upon Israel. Jesus says “Amen” to this anticipation of heaven: “You are not far from the reign of God.” Hosea and Mark help us to put all of our Lenten practices into proper balance with our neighbour and church and God.

First Reading: Ho 14:2-10

Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.
His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me.

Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

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 neighbour 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 neighbour as oneself,’ – this is much more important that 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.