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Friday – Third Week – Lent
Readings: Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28b-34.
1/ First Reading: NAB Hosea 14:2 Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. 3 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. 4 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.” 5 I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. 6 I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, 7 and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. 8 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. 9 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! 10 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.
2/ Gospel: NAB Mark 12:28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” 29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ 33 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.” 34 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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P.
I. THEME: Love God and others are two main poles of our life.
To sin is to commit an offense either against God, others or both. When people sin, they damage their relationships with God and others. To renew these relationships, people must repent and love God above all things and others as themselves.
Today readings rotate around these two basic commandments. In the first reading, the prophet Hosea invited the Israelites to recognize the sins they committed against God and others, and to repent. God is rich in mercy; He shall forgive their sins, let them come back, and help them to bear good fruits in their life. In the Gospel, when someone came and asked Jesus which commandment is the most important one, Jesus solemnly declared the two commandments which are to love God and to love others.
1/ Reading I: “Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God.”
1.1/ People must endure all bad results when they live far away from God: Hosea practiced his prophetic vocation in the Northern Kingdom before it felt to Assyria in 721 BC. Today passage is the last chapter of the Book, was probably written after the fall or during the exile in Assyria. The greatest sin of the Israelites is to betray God, they turned their back to God and their face to idols, especially the Baal god. The prophet warned the king and the Israelites many times, but they refused to listen to him. Hosea firmly declared the reason of the falling of Israel: “You have collapsed through your guilt.”
However, the Israelites can still hope because God is rich in mercy. The prophet invited them: “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.”” The real repentance must be accompanied with the confession and the prayer.
The Israelites felt because they didn’t rely on God’s power, but their own strength. During their exile, they recognized the absurdity of their faith in other gods and in their own strength. The prophet advised them to say to God: “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.”
1.2/ People shall bear good fruits when they have good relationship with God: The Lord God confirmed the truth of Hosea’s advice. He guaranteed their hope if they sincerely repent: “I will heal their defection, 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.”
The relationship between God and the Israelites was liken as the tree and its fruits. Israel can only bear fruits if they were connected with God, as written: “”I am like a verdant cypress tree”– Because of me you bear fruit!” This image was also used by St. John in his gospel: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5).
Verse 10 was probably added later by the scribes, according to their wisdom tradition: “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.”
2/ Gospel: “Which is the greatest commandment?”
2.1/ The most important commandment: One of the scribes came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well Jesus had answered them, he 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.’”
God is the only god in this world; beside him there is no other gods. This reality is simple, but not everyone believes as such. There are many people, out of their ignorance or financial gains, created many gods for themselves and others to worship, such as: the Fortune, the Venus, the Sun, the Moon, the Mountain, etc.
Out of His immense love for people, God created all things and arranged them in an order so that they can benefit people, both in this life and the next. People should respond to God’s love by loving Him with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength; but many didn’t do so. Instead of loving God and using their time to learn about Him, they worshipped God’s creatures, such as: actors, actresses, sport idols, houses and cars, etc., and spent most of their time for these creatures.
2.2/ The second most important commandment: Jesus continued: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
After God comes other people. People must love the others due to the following reasons: Firstly, all are the children on one Father who is in heaven; therefore, whatever we did to others, we did to God, and the reverse is also true. Secondly, all are members of Christ’s body; when one member is suffered, the whole body is also in pain. Thirdly, all have a duty to build up a better life; everyone contributes according to the gift which the Holy Spirit gave to each one.
Some typical sins that violate the second commandments are: Firstly, one puts material things above human beings; this causes many sins of social injustice. Secondly, one treats other as an object or a thing, instead of a human being. Lastly, one is so selfish and has no regards for others.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The relationship with God and with others are two basic relationships in life. To protect these two relationships, we must love God above all things and love people as ourselves.
– When we sinned, we caused damages for these two relationships. To renew them, we need to repent and to reconciliate with God through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to improve our relationship with others.
– Once we perfectly live these two relationships, we reach the goal of our life; there is nothing that can prevent us to enter God’s kingdom.