He comes first; the rest follows. – Friday, 3rd Week in Lent – Hosea 14:2-10/Mark 12:28-34

I have dealt extensively with the first reading in https://www.pottypadre.com/god-does-not-just-deal-with-our-heart-he-heals-our-heart-friday-3rd-week-of-lent-hosea-142-9-mark-1228-34/ (Just click this link)

I have gone through 53 seasons of Lent, 31 of them as an adult and 23 as a priest, yet the scriptures never speak to you in the same way. Each year, your circumstances, emotions, maturity (or immaturity), learning etc compel you to read the scriptures differently.

When I was in the seminary there was a growing clamour to approach theological studies from a psycho-socio approach. Years of traditional formation seemed outdated to many. To my mind (and this is purely subjective) the collective body of seminary professors failed to develop in us a more robust and traditional spirituality in their endeavour to introduce us to new expressions of theology. If your grounding in the faith is lacking, all other expressions of the faith no matter how ‘in tune’ and ‘in time’ they are to the world, become irrelevant.

Virtue lies in the middle and Christ addressed this reality but even more he affirmed the hierarchy of truths and did not play to the gallery. At the time of Jesus, the love of God was layered under the traditions linked to the law. Most of God’s law was smothered under human traditions. Jesus, seeing this reality addressed it in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5:21-48. “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” Christ did not rule out the core of the law but he course corrected it. “Not one dot, not one iota of the law will disappear,” he said.

Striking an honest balance while not compromising the core of the faith is a tricky business. When one of the scribes came to Jesus asking him which is the FIRST of all commandments, Jesus gave him TWO (“The second is this”, he said). Christ knew he had to course correct a distorted understanding of God but he did not swing the pendulum to another extreme, What is fundamental must be stated, “The Lord is one; you shall love the Lord YOUR God will all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” THEN and only THEN did he add a second commandment (even though he was asked for only one)

To my mind, the ‘talk about’ the love of neighbour has overtaken the fundamental love for God which must come first. It is fashionable and popular to talk about loving, helping and caring for others. But such an act is an act of social service and not one of Christian charity (read charity as love because that is what is meant by the Church). Christian charity (love) is primarily rooted in the love of God and this love of God finds its expression in the love for the neighbour.

In the first reading, Hosea the prophet, speaks to a people who had forgotten God entirely. He nudges them on, “Come back to the Lord YOUR God.” You may find that journey strange and a bit difficult, so “provide yourselves with words.” In short, prepare yourself to speak the truth of your sinfulness to God. Hosea is practically conducting a penitential rite for people who are reluctant to make their confession.

The faith cannot be compromised. The season of Lent does not allow for it. It has to be approached as God wanted it. He comes first; the rest follows.

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