“And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to ask him any question” (Mark 12:34). Reading through the Gospels, we are not used to seeing Jesus commend the scribes and Pharisees, but today we hear Jesus say to a Scribe that he is not far from the kingdom of God. So what is that thing that can make us close to heaven? It is our ability to make love a priority in our lives.
As Jesus told the Scribe, the first and most important of all the commandments is: “To love God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “to love your neighbour as yourself.” The truth is that once we are committed to loving God and our neighbours as ourselves, we cannot sin. How? Loving God demands that we keep the first three commandments and loving our neighbour entails keeping the remaining seven. If we love our neighbours as ourselves, we would obey our parents, we will not kill or steal or commit adultery. We would not lie or covert our neighbour’s goods or spouse. Loving God demands that we do not serve other gods; that we keep His name holy and we honour the Sabbath day.
The prophet Hosea speaks to us today in our first reading: “Return to the Lord your God” that is to say, leave your idols, stop worshipping false gods and come back to God. Has the love of God died in your heart? Are you finding it very difficult to pray? Do you consider time spent in church as wasted? These are clear signs that your heart has found another love and if you check very well, you have started bowing to other gods such as money, position, prestige, pleasure, achievement and the likes. Love is not just a feeling, but a decision. Love is a sacrifice. Jesus praised the Scribe because he understood that: “to love our neighbour as ourselves is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” What you love is what you sacrifice for.Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, break my heart of stone so that I can love you and my neighbours better. Amen. Bible Study: Hosea 14:2-10, Psalm 81 and Mark 12:28-34).
Stop Competing with Others; God Sees the heart
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
There is a widespread dis-ease affecting many of us today. It is called “comparing ourselves with others.” The symptoms of this disease include: using other people to measure one’s progress in life, doing everything in one’s power to put people down, and make them look small and unimportant, talking about people in a bad light and praying against others. In my country, there is a type of generator called “I beta pass my neighbour.” This philosophy of “beta pass neighbour” is so entrenched in our psyches that we never appreciate anything we have unless we are sure it is bigger, better, more sophisticated or more expensive than that of others. Until we learn to complement rather than compete with people, the world would forever remain a place of enmity; a jungle of some sort; an animal kingdom where the strongest survive at the expense of the weak. Knowing the weaknesses of others should not make us puffed with pride, it should make us think of ways to help them up. This requires humility; humility to know that your level in life came not by your power but by the grace of God and others who helped you in the past.
The second man in the parable of Jesus came before God to pray and without raising his eyes to heaven simply said: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” In the end, his prayer was accepted but the Pharisee only prayed to himself. As the Prophet Hosea makes us understand: “God desires mercy and not sacrifice.” Examination of conscience does a lot of good for us; not only does it draw us closer to God (who loves the sinner but hates the sin), it also helps us forgive those who hurt us. Do you consider yourself better than anyone in anyway? Then it is time to start examining your conscience. Above all, stop comparing yourself with others. Acknowledge your sins and each day strive to be a better you than what you were the previous day. Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to be content and help me examine my heart diligently. Amen.
Hosea 6:1-6, Psalm 51 and Luke 18:9-14).