Friday, Third Week of Lent
Blessed St. Casimir’s Day! (look for his story in a neighboring post)
Hosea 14: 2-10 (if we return to God, He will save us)
Psalm 81:6-11, 14, 17 “I am the Lord, your God: hear My voice”
+Mark 12:28-34 (love of God and neighbor are the greatest commandments)
Today’s readings pick up the positive side of God’s call, balancing out the warnings of woe we’ve been hearing lately. In contrast to the curses we call down upon ourselves through sin, God holds out to us the blessings of holiness. To sum up the “thou shalt not” of the Law, Jesus uses positive terms: “thou shalt”. When we turn away from our sin to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then God’s love will be able to reach us. We will flourish and our lives will be fruitful because we will be depending on God, rather than on ourselves or on His other creatures (none of which were designed to endure such a heavy load). Part of the problem the Israelites were having was that they were trying to rely on Assyria, on horses and on the works of their hands.
We can only live up to God’s commandments, only enter into the perfection of His sacred order, by depending on Him, by drawing on His love, on the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts at Baptism and sealed in the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit is the Love of God Personified. God the Father gives Himself completely to God the Son in Love, and the Son in turn gives Himself completely to the Father in Love. The Love that flows between them is the Holy Spirit. That means that when the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can participate in the inner life of the Holy Trinity by giving back to God His own Love. No other love is worthy of Him. No other love fulfills the greatest commandment. Nor is any other love capable of enabling us to lay down our lives for our enemies.
Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and you may recall that when someone asked Him who He meant by “neighbor”, He held up a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews, as an example (Luke 10:29-37). He also told us to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12)–and He loved us by dying for us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). As we read before, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God always provides the means for us to live up to His commands, for us to participate in the sacred order of Heaven. We may not feel capable of keeping His commandments, capable of making the sacrifices love demands, but our feelings are not accurate gauges of spiritual Reality. God’s promises are, and if He told us we must, we can. We just have to step out in faith and do it.
May our trust in God’s provision give us the courage to live up to our high calling.