29Mar Friday of Week 3 of Lent

Both readings deal illustrate conversion of heart, which is more than saying no to sin…

1st Reading: Hosea 14:2-10

How God supports those who trust in Him

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.

Responsorial: Psalm 81

Response: I am the Lord your God: listen to my voice

An unfamiliar speech I hear:
I relieved his shoulder of the burden;
his hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you. (R./)

Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, will you not hear me? (R./)

There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the Lord, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt. (R./)

If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

Jesus endorses love as the greatest commandment

One of the scribes heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus 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 nobody dared to ask him any question.


Where conversion leads us

Our Scriptures speak of a conversion that goes beyond turning away from sin. In Hosea, Israel is to “return to the Lord, your God” as to a loving partner; in the Gospel, the love of God and of our neighbour are closely linked. This desire for God is an active response, not a theoretical notion. Rather than be distracted by theological argument, the people should reach out effectively with compassion for the orphan.

Hosea and Jesus both speak in the familiar language of the Scriptures, as used in the Jewish liturgy. Our liturgy on earth reflects the beauty and peace of divine life. According to Hosea the dew of heaven rests upon Israel; just as we still invoke God’s Spirit to bless our Eucharist like the dewfall. Jesus says “Amen” to this anticipation of the life to come: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Hosea and Jesus urge us to be in right relationship with ourselves, with our neighbour, and with God.

Two commandments into one

The scribes (doctors of the law) are generally portrayed as arguing against Jesus. But in this instance, Jesus and a thescribe are very much of the same mind. Jesus assures him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” They agreed about the two great commandments of the Law. The first commandment calls us to love God and the second to love our neighbour. The priority is given to God.

The two commandments differ about the intensity of the love required. It is only God who is to be loved with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is only God who is deserving of our total love. To love God in this way is to be caught up in God’s love for humanity and that is where the second commandment comes in. Love of neighbour is where the pure and total love of God invariably leads us.

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