Readings: Hosea 14:2-10, Ps. 81:6,8-11,14,17, Mark 12:28-34

“To love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus reminds us of the first commandment – to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. Our first reading today comes from the Book of Prophet Hosea. God instructed Hosea to marry a harlot to demonstrate the idolatrous practices of the Israelite nation. Just as a harlot leaves her husband for other men, we cheat on God when we serve other gods (such as money, power, pleasure, etc.) Hosea says: “Return to the Lord. Say to Him: ‘…Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God’, to the work of our hands.’” (Hosea 14:2-3). Let us now examine other lessons in today’s readings:

1. One of the Shortcuts to Heaven is Understanding the Bible: Reading through the Gospels, we notice that Jesus rarely praised the scribes and Pharisees. However, to show an in-depth understanding of the commandments, Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage, said to the scribe: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34). To understand the scriptures is to be close to God’s kingdom. St. Jerome says: “Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of God.”

2. Understanding the First Commandment: When asked about the first commandment, Jesus said: “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.” (Mark 12:30) What does this mean? A. Make God Your Priority. To love God is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33). How much time do I commit to God daily? Do I consult God (at least mentally) before deciding what to do or avoid?

B. Love Your Neighbour as Yourself. In all three synoptic Gospels, when Jesus was asked about the first commandment, He immediately added: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, Cf. Matthew 22:36). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus summed both commandments in one sentence: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)  

3. If You Hate Your Neighbour, You Cannot Love God: According to St. Paul, “The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). St. Paul does not refer to loving God with all our heart because by loving our neighbours, we are also loving God. St. Paul must have been reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” Picking up from this, St. John says: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20)  

4. It is Sacrificial to Love Your Neighbour as Yourself: The scribe said, “To love our neighbour as ourselves is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It takes a whole lot to love others genuinely. Love is all about giving, even when it hurts. Loving our neighbour requires forgiving them unconditionally. This is a sacrifice that is more pleasing to God than burnt offerings. Jesus says: “When you are offering your gift at the altar if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, break my heart of stone so I can love you and my neighbours better. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of the 3rd week of Lent. Bible Study: Hosea 14:2-10, Ps. 81:6, 8-11,14,17, Mark 12:28-34).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu