3rd Week of Lent
1st Reading: Hos 14:2-10
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. “I am like a verdant cypress tree”– Because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.
Gospel Mk 12:28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Love worship: Loving God and loving people is the heart of true religion. These offer the two wings upon which a Christian flies in this world. Proving the first passes through the second. For can only love God through loving the people we see (1 John 4:20). Also, when our love for God springs from our experience of his love for us, loving people becomes a passion and an achievable task. In today’s readings we are again admonished that our ritual life, our worship, should not take the place of the works of love. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and Levite valued the temple ritual than helping the man wounded by robbers. Let us follow the example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and to lay down his life in ransom for us. Jesus was impressed by the insight of the Scribe.
PRAYER: Lord, let us be so consumed by your divine truths that compliance in life follows automatically. Amen!
LOVE OF GOD AND LOVE OF NEIGHBOUR – WHAT IS NEW? Scribes were specialists in the written law, though they had a problem in prioritising the laws. So, the question from the scribe in today’s gospel story is, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” He is asking for the one commandment which is above all commandments. In the content of what Jesus says there is nothing new – he is only quoting the Torah: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Dt 6:15); You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19:18). But what is new is that he makes the two into one – the first. He puts together the two tablets of Moses into one. The scribe who encounters Jesus is not far from the Kingdom of God, because he is able to understand the mind of Christ, and repeats the two texts in one. Have we understood the mind of Christ?