What’s Worth More Than All Sacrifices, Third Friday of Lent, March 13, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, New York, NY
Friday of the Third Week of Lent
March 13, 2015
Hos 14:2-10, Ps 81, Mk 12:28-34

Today’s homily was not recorded. The following points were considered: 

  • On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, God made a special appeal to each of us through the Prophet Joel: “Return to me with your whole heart.” He asked us to “rend our hearts,” to rip them open to receive his mercy and to share his compassion with others. Today on this first day of the second half of Lent, Jesus intensifies the appeal in the Gospel. When asked what the greatest commandment is, he responds, “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.” Today he reminds us that the whole point of the Lenten season, the whole point of the Christian life to which Lent is meant to restore us, is to return with our whole heart in love to God, to unite our whole soul, mind and strength to God.
  • It’s important that we confront what Jesus is asking of us. There are many Christians who believe they love the Lord simply because they have good thoughts about God, they admire him, they think that he’s kind, merciful and generous, the way we can say we love Pope Francis — for whom we pray in a special way today on his second anniversary — or love firefighters who sacrifice themselves for us, or love anyone who is honorable like a philanthropist who gives millions to a cause we believe in. But Jesus is calling for much more than this. Love is more than having good feelings or impressions about another; love is willing the good of the other for the other’s sake. Love is choosing to sacrifice oneself for another, putting someone else ahead of us, like Jesus would say during the Last Supper and put into action the following afternoon: laying down one’s life for one’s friends, in little ways or supremely.
  • There are other Christians who do love God to the point of sacrificing for him, sacrificing some of the time, financial resources and talents that he’s given them for him and their glory. They give him some of their mind, heart, soul and strength. That’s good, but let’s face it, it’s still not what Jesus is calling us to do. He’s not calling us to love him with 14 percent of our mind, 21 percent of our strength, 38.2 percent of our heart and 91 percent of our soul. He’s calling us to love God with all we’ve got. God says that that’s worth more than all sacrifices. To get to that type of love requires a deep conversion on our part. It means that our hope is not just to be good people but to be really holy people.
  • We should make this practical.
    • Jesus calls us to love him with all our mind. How much of our mind do we dedicate to God? Do we try to think as God thinks in our decisions? Do we fill our minds with his thoughts through prayer and reading the Bible and good spiritual books or do we fill our minds with the world’s thoughts through reading the paper more than the Bible and watching the television more than we pray?
    • Jesus likewise calls us to love him with all our heart. Do we really love God more than we love everything and everyone else in our life? He says elsewhere in the Gospel that we’re not fit to be his disciple unless we love him more than our family members, more than our stuff, more than even our own life. This is obviously challenging but do we try to love him with all our heart?
    • He calls us to love him with all our strength. How much effort do we make to love him? Do we battle through distractions in prayer? Do we make more effort to attend or watch Mass than we do for everything else?
    • He calls us to love him with all our soul. That means he wants us full of grace. Do we seek to stay free of all sin or do we compromise with sin and give in to gossip, complaining, holding grudges and the like? Do we take advantage of the opportunities for the Sacrament of Confession so that whatever in our soul is not of God can be forgiven?
  • In the Gospel today, however, Jesus goes a step further that that challenge. He tells us that our love for God will be shown in our love for neighbor. Jesus elsewhere would say not “Love me as I love you,” but “Love one another as I have loved you.” When he asked St. Peter after the Resurrection, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and Peter replied that he did, Jesus didn’t say, “Great! That’s all I wanted!” Rather he said, “Feed my sheep. … Feed my lambs. … Tend my sheep.” Peter’s love for Jesus, just like ours, would be shown in our love for others. That means today that Jesus is calling us to love our neighbor, to love the other people in this room, to love our family members, to love strangers and even enemies with all our heart, all our mind, all our souls and all our strength. We begin by seeking to love others with our minds and think good things about them, noticing their good points rather than their bad, giving them the benefit of the doubt rather than thinking the worst. We love them with our heart, which means with affection, including those who are difficult to love, and making the effort to care for the wounds of their heart. We love them with our strength, including when it requires summoning the strength to forgive them and making the effort to help them with deeds. And we love them with our soul, caring in a special way for their souls as well, that they be full of God.
  • To paraphrase the end of the passage of the Prophet Hosea in today’s first reading, this is the “straight path” that the Lord wants us to take. This is the path that those who are “just,” who are in a right relationship with God, take. As demanding as the path is, the Lord calls us to it because he knows that this is the path of happiness. Someone who is loving the Lord with all he has and loving neighbor is the one who is really filled with joy and peace and Jesus wants us to have that joy. St. Therese Lisieux once famously said that we cannot become half a saint. That there’s no way to become holy and eternally happy giving God fifty percent. We need to give him everything. That’s the type of restoration that Lent seeks to bring about in us.
  • The Lord who calls us to love him and love others with all we’ve got is prepared to give us all the help he knows we need to live up to this calling. Here at Mass he gives us that help, planting within us Jesus, the Incarnate Love of the Father, so that we may love the Father in communion with him and love others in communion with him. Today let’s ask Jesus to help us to pray this Mass with all our mind, heart, soul and strength and to be strengthened by Jesus in the Mass to “do this in memory of” him, giving our bodies, our blood, our sweat, our tears, our mind, heart, soul and strength for the good of others as Jesus has given all he had for us and our salvation. Praised be Jesus Christ!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
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
PS 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.

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.

 

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