March 9, 2018
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality 
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 241

Hosea 14:2-10
Psalms 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17
Mark 12:28-34

Praying Lent

Lent Prayer for Today

The Third Week of Lent - 20 min. - Text Transcript

What Is Fasting and Abstinence?

Cooking Lent

The Stations of the Cross

How has Lent been kept within your spirit and observance? Have you listened well to the invitations, instructions and reminders? If you require a small boost, ponder slowly today’s First Reading from the Prophet Hosea. The reading requires no commentary or casual reflection. It takes time to take it all in, like a beautiful poem always commands. Listen to it ring gently and deeply in your spirit. There is nothing new to learn in these verses, more like taking a bath in them.

With today’s Gospel reading, our ear and eye are caught by the seemingly impossible invitation to love our neighbor no matter who they might be. This eye-catching, easily said is quite hard even to imagine. So I won’t even imagine it. So many homilies and reflections have explained the process for centuries and I don’t think I could improve on them, or make it easy to live.

So what is left for me to pray with and write about! When the scribe tests Jesus’ opinion about which commandment was the most important for His Jewish followers, He really said one word. “Listen!” Jesus is quoting from the fourth chapter and fifth verse from the Book of Deuteronomy. He continues that Israel should recall what the God of Israel has spoken, not merely, about laws and customs. Listen and repeat upon rising and lying down, that the God of Israel is the One and only God. “Shema” is the exultant invitation. This One God has been laboring to bring you, Israel, to awareness and acceptance of this wonderful reality and relationship. More clearly perhaps, if the faithful Jew recalls often the unique relationship God has with him/her, then loving that God will be a “want-to” rather than “Have-to.” The more we experience being loved, the less loving is burdensome.

This one reminder to “Listen” is also an urging for Israel to keep recalling the saving and creating love experienced in the Exodus, that freeing from slavery. The faithful Jew is reminded, by his/her listening constantly to the love of the saving-God, that she/he belongs to God and to each other. A Jewish person may have this reminder on the door post encased in a little container known as a Mezuzah. This same passage is contained in the tefillin which is worn for the prayers.  Our Jewish ancestors remembered, recalled, re-read, re-celebrated by word and gesture that the One God who had saved them is the One God of the nation Israel and of the whole of creation.

Jesus then reminds the scribe, and us as well, that the love of God is more than a personal validation or embrace or a celebration of singularity. We are so selective about many things and unfortunately about many other persons. We pray these days of Lent to expand our personal boundaries, but not with walls, but welcomes, not with “who can make us greater,’ but “to whom can we reveal the same saving-love of the One God, Our God, the God of us all?"

Listen! Listen! Listen to who we are. Listen to who she is, he is. We are not, the others are not, objects to be selected/rejected, but similar “others” whom God loves as well.           

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