The Word of God

March 12, 2021

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 241

Reading I – 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.

Responsorial Psalm – 81:6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 and 17

R.    (see 11 and 9A)  I am the Lord your God: hear 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.    I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“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.    I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“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.    I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“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.    I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.

Verse before the Gospel – Mt 4:17

Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

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.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that dysfunctional interpersonal relationships are growing within the general population and can seriously drain and empty the joy and peace of mind that should be part of a happy life. Emotions of those who whine and complain about ridiculous regularity are most often experienced as resentment and anger. We have more than a bird’s eye view of that awful, pathetic prison of the soul in our First Reading today: “Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt.”  Perhaps they felt as if they were caught in a trap, and the more the Prophet Hosea struggled to get them out, the tighter become the clamps and the less freedom they had. We read that the severe trek undoubtedly wore them out into freedom. Still, they seemed to be driven by irrational thoughts that got in the way of rationally addressing the situation in the desert. With Lent even in its first full month, ending sooner than later, perhaps this describes us, which then calls us to a more significant response rooted in faith, courage, and love. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.”  (Responsorial Psalm) 

Of course, there are many times when complaining about our lot in life and other uncontrollable situations seem to be the only and most logical of all reactions, but they are not the best. There are many more times in life when, instead of complaining, we must do something about our whining because the sad truth is that although complainers may change their complaints, they never reduce the amount of time spent complaining. Which is why the Gospel gives us the only sane and healthy way not only to deal with suffering and frustration but also to get to Heaven for all eternity: “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…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Instead of being critical of people or situations of anything, especially when we have no real control over them, let us remember what is waiting for us at Easter: Jesus Christ Risen and alive! Be happy you are not responsible for everything in this world, and instead of piling on complaints, thank God for everything good with the world and thank as many as you can for what they do for you and others. Overwhelm the world with encouragement and appreciation.

Read Today’s Reflection

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