Friday of the Third Week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
The forty days of Lent are intended, in part, to draw us into the experience of the forty-year journey of the people of Israel from the land of sin and death into the land promised to them by God. The story is one of God’s faithfulness and forbearance, in the midst of their uncertainty, complaints, and unfaithfulness.
The Israelites had been freed from their Egyptian bondage and passed through the Red Sea. God provided manna from heaven, water from a rock, and quail for meat. God guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their lives were totally dependent of God’s loving care for them. Yet when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments, the people melted their gold, and had Aaron make a golden calf. They worshipped it instead.
I am a lot like the people of Israel. Through baptism I have passed through my “Red Sea” experience and am on a journey of faith. The Eucharist is my manna from heaven and my material needs are provided daily by God’s loving care. Yet still I have a tendency to forget these real blessings, and fail to offer God the honor and worship which God so richly deserves from me. I turn to those good things in my life God has given me and worship them instead.
Today’s readings raise the question: How do we best worship and honor God? Hosea the prophet reminds us that the first step is to look at ourselves honestly and acknowledge the ways in which we have failed to honor God in our lives and actions. Hosea and the psalmist urge us to turn away from the gods we have made for ourselves—careers, material goods, places of honor in society, etc.—and return to the true God who loves us and waits for our return.
Most poignantly today, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest of all. Jesus’ response is transcendent and immanent: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe affirmed what Jesus said and acknowledged that when we truly live in this profound love for God, neighbor, and self, it is the best offering that we can give to God.
Jesus answered: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” On our Lenten journey this year, may we all bring the Kingdom of God (our promised land) nearer by our offerings of love for God, our neighbor, and ourselves.
Dr. Kenneth Parker is Associate Professor of Modern Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.