“Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God.” The first reading for mass today begins with these words and they are so very appropriate for Lent. Life can become pretty complicated sometimes and it is easy to become engrossed in things that at first appear to be life giving, but end up being life draining instead. Sin is like that and not just sin but just the tendencies we have toward sin can also be damaging sometimes.
The first reading for mass from the book of the prophet Hosea continues until we read these words, which are so applicable in our modern, materialistic culture: “We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands …” Before we even finish this sentence it is worth stopping to think about. Part of our Lenten journey is about growing closer to God, to Jesus, and to our fellow man.
We only have so much time, energy and resources and we need to carefully choose where to spend our efforts each day. Time and effort is just as valuable as money, and we only have so much in any given day. Everyone has to work to support themselves and their families, but work and buying things can easily become the focus of our lives if we aren’t careful. Many people work their fingers to the bone or work long hours in a very stressful job, trying to earn a raise, promotion or to advance in their career. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but to make this the main focus of your life can become a very destructive thing that negatively impacts your personal life, family life, and your friendships too. Work can completely dominate a person’s life sometimes, but is it worth it? What human costs are incurred on the way to the top?
Many people do come to their senses and realize that money, looks, position, power, prestige and possessions are not what life is all about and they pull things back into balance again. The rest of the sentence from the first reading for mass explains what is of real and lasting value. “We shall say no more, ‘Our god, to the work of our hands …… for in you the orphan finds compassion.” Hosea 14:4 Our relationship with God and Jesus Christ and our love, care and concern for one another is what is of real and lasting value. The last verses in the first reading for mass says, “Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.” Hosea 14:10
This leads right into today’s gospel, when the scribe asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” How Jesus answers the scribe’s question, and the order in which he gives the answer, is a clue into what our priorities should be in life. The two great commandments that Jesus gave us are:
“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.”
It is so easy to get these commandments in the reverse order in our lives. Do our lives ever resemble this?
1. Take care of me.
2. Take care of my family.
3. Take care of my relationship with God.
See how easy it is to get these commandments reversed? Do we spend most of our time, energy and effort in life on ourselves first, our family and other people second, and then whatever is left we spend on our relationship with God? This would be a very good question to think about today, on the third Friday of Lent.
Daily Mass Readings:
Hosea 14:2-10 / Psalm 51:3-4, 18-19, 10-21ab / Luke 18:9-14