Today’s first reading from Hosea 14 contains some of the most beautiful imagery in Scripture. It shows us God’s loving heart for his people. Even though they had turned away, He will welcome them back, if they just ask for His forgiveness. “I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely.” In the Gospel reading from Mark 12, Jesus is asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” (By “first,” they didn’t mean numerically, but in importance.) His answer may have surprised some.
When Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment (singular), he gives a plural answer. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Interesting, isn’t it? That Jesus would put loving other human beings on a par with loving God. Yet, that’s the way that I read it. Love God and love your neighbor. When one of the scribes lauded Jesus for his answer, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
This is one of those things that sounds easy enough in theory. But when it comes down to putting it into practice…well, that’s another story. Oh, it’s easy enough to love God, right? After all, He’s all loving, forgiving, merciful and compassionate. Why, He probably even looks, dresses and smells like us! But people?? Ugh…they’re mean, nasty, smelly, dishonest. It’s HARD to love them. But wait…I’m one of them. And yet, God loves me.
Father, you know we love you. And yet we have such a difficult time loving our neighbor. Give us the grace to love people like you love people. Amen.