Whatever good we accomplish is God's doing in us. And we don't have to trumpet it about. As Jesus said, "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others" (Matthew 6:2).
Sylvester was one of the first 12 followers of St. Francis of Assisi and was the first priest in the Franciscan Order. A descendant of a noble family, Sylvester once sold Francis stones which were to be used to rebuild a church. When, a short while later, he saw Francis and Bernard of Quintavalle distributing Bernard's wealth to the poor, Sylvester complained that he had been poorly paid for the stones and asked for more money.
Though Francis obliged, the handful of money he gave Sylvester soon filled him with guilt. He sold all of his goods, began a life of penance and joined Francis and the others. Sylvester became a holy and prayerful man, and a favorite of Francis—a companion on his journeys, the one Francis went to for advice. It was Sylvester and Clare who answered Francis' query with the response that he should serve God by going out to preach rather than by devoting himself to prayer.
Once in a city where civil war was raging, Sylvester was commanded by Francis to drive the devils out. At the city gate Sylvester cried out: "In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirits." The devils departed and peace returned to the city.
Sylvester lived 14 more years after the death of Francis and is buried near him in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.
Sylvester probably would have asked a higher price for his stones if he had thought Francis had the money. In today's world he might have written the difference off on his taxes as a charitable contribution, but that wasn't an option in his day. Quite understandably, he asked for payment from the money Francis was handing out so freely. So why did he later feel guilty? Perhaps he realized that, like many of us, he placed a higher value on lesser things.
Lord, help me to be fully alive to your holy presence. Enfold me in your love. Let my heart become one with yours.
Lord, you created me to live in freedom. May your Holy Spirit guide me to follow you freely. Instil in my heart a desire To know and love you more each day.
I exist in a web of relationships - links to nature, people, God. I trace out these links, giving thanks for the life that flows through them. Some links are twisted or broken: I may feel regret, anger, disappointment. I pray for the gift of acceptance and forgiveness.
The Word of God
Reading 1 Hos 14:2-10
Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the LORD; Say to him, "Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, 'Our god,' to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion."
I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. "I am like a verdant cypress tree"– Because of me you bear fruit!
Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.
Responsorial Psalm PS 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17
R. (see 11 and 9a) I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
An unfamiliar speech I hear: "I relieved his shoulder of the burden; his hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you."
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
"Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, my people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, will you not hear me?"
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
"There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god. I, the LORD, am your God who led you forth from the land of Egypt."
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
"If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them."
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
Verse Before the Gospel Mt 4:17
Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Gospel Mk 12:28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Loving God with our whole being, and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves – these two commitments, taken together, have greater priority than "all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices". They also have priority over all other virtues. Love, under its two aspects, is the motor driving our lives as followers of Christ.
▪ Are you comfortable with the designation of love as a commandment? The word can sound cold and legalistic whereas the word love evokes warmth and freedom. Could you suggest an alternative to "commandment"? Or would you want to?
Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person Lord. I think I might say "Thank You Lord" for always being there for me. I know with certainty there were times when you carried me, Lord. When it was through your strength I got through the dark times in my life.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
You are not far from the Kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34)
Being "not far" from something is pretty good, right? When you get an A- on a test, you are not far from a perfect score. Or when your fuel tank is almost empty, a road sign announcing that you are not far from a service station is a welcome relief.
Then again, there are times when being "not far" doesn't work out so well. Imagine playing baseball and being not far from hitting a home run; all you need is a long-armed outfielder to reach over the fence and catch the ball. Or perhaps, being not far from an oasis in the desert is of little comfort when you are unable to take even one more step!
When Jesus tells the scribe that he is not far from the kingdom, he may have both meanings in mind. This scribe understands that the heart of the Old Testament Law is a two-pronged love. Like the people who received the two tablets of Moses, we are called to love God and love our neighbors. Any sacrifices or offerings we make mean little if these two loves are out of balance. Loving one another can easily go offtrack if we are not pursuing God as well. And a professed love for God is hollow if it doesn't manifest itself in a tangible love for our brothers and sisters. So in understanding these truths, the scribe showed that he was very close indeed to the kingdom of God.
But standing not far from the scribe was the one person who embodied the kingdom of God—Jesus himself—and the scribe missed it. In addition to his insightful reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, this fellow still needed to embrace Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, not just as a wise rabbi.
Each day is an opportunity for us to remember that Jesus is more than just a wise man or a holy example for us to follow. He is also the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). So how close do you want to get today? Just close enough to acknowledge the truths of Scripture? Or so close that you know the blessings and freedom of the kingdom of God?
"Jesus, you are the source of eternal life. Not only do I agree with your teaching, but I place my faith in you."
The Lord says today "I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely". Notice these two powerful words that begin this phrase: "I Will". That is to say "I do will it". In spanish, the phrase puts you on the spot when they say "si TU quieres", (If YOU want). God says "I DO", just like in a holy marriage. We are the spouse. If You want, you can respond the same. He wills what? Healing. That is why God sent His Beloved Son, and only son, begotten by God. I do will to heal their defection. I WILL, to love them freely. That's like saying "I Love you anyways". This morning, I saw that a cousin of mine unsubscribed from my emailings you are reading. I grew up with him, we were altar boys at one point together. So yeah, it stung a little, because these emails, if you don't know, they are quite perhaps, a major part of my life. I am sharing my life with you, and to be rejected? To reject the word of God as well? Well, this is me, this Lent...stop...breathe...reflect for a moment...and pray...next...love. Love them any way. This is the way, and love becomes alive, and the burden made light. God says today " I am the Lord your God: hear my voice." Let us continue with the voice of God... In the Holy Gospel the Lord our God says " Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." Perhaps, I've loved the Lord with my mind, but not all. Perhaps I've loved the Lord with my strength, but not all. Perhaps I've loved the Lord with my soul...but not all. We know there is room for Him, but we struggle in making room. And so here is a clue on how to make room: Love those near you as yourself. Then, the challenge question is, do you love yourself? Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn't have so many selfish thoughts! LOL. So why not love others like that? You love to give yourself stuff? Give others stuff! You love to be welcomed? Welcome others! You love to be forgiven? Forgive others! You love to be comforted? Comfort others! You love attention? Give attention to others! You love hot chocolate? Give hot chocolate! You love to serve yourself? Serve others! What happens if you start doing this? This what God COMMANDS? It opens up doors like no other. Whereupon, soon, He begins to reveal Himself. Outpouring reveals the Lord's love. It will become the healing you need. I WILL. I Do will to heal you says the Lord. Do you wish to be healed? They say God's mercy and grace abounds and pours all over us, we just are like rocks and it bounces off us, we are impermeable, waterproof, so hardened because of so many pains and doubts. No. Lent is about you being lent (loaned) and spent, (used). You let yourself be used by everyone and everything else, now, it's time for the Lord to use your loaned body. Look at everything we see and love as loaned by God. Then, appreciation sets in, and adored in the Holy Eucharist. This is the first Friday of the month, adore CHRIST! For it was the first friday in the world that changed the world, when time began to tick for healing and mercy. I DO WANT...says the Lord...and me? Allow me to share and end with a part of a super long text reflection in spanish today. Keep my family in prayers, as we will have my grandma's funeral tomorrow, and vigil tonight. She was 92 years of love and loving God so much!
""Love is the most important
"What is the principal commandment of the Law? Jesus answered, "The first is:" Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your soul ". The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. " There is no commandment greater than these. " (Mc 12.28 to 34) All the commandments are important. But the most important of all is love. It is important not steal or kill. But more important is the love. It is important to obey parents and authority. But more important is the love. It is fidelity to the tradition of the past. But more important is the love. It is important to govern and maintain order and discipline. But more important is the love. It is important not to disagree in ideas. But more important is the love. It is important to call the track to which it deviates. But more important is the love. Jesus does not deny the other commandments, but establishes hierarchies. Jesus does not deny the need for an authority, both in society and in the Church. But it says that the most important is the witness of love. Jesus does not deny the unity of thought. But, we clarified that the main thing is unity in love. Jesus does not deny the need for discipline. But, it shows us that the main thing is the discipline with love. Jesus does not deny that the main thing is the love and relationship with God, which is the basis and beginning of everything. But we are clear that there is no love God unless we love our neighbor. Jesus nor denies the value of all the rules and order. But he tells us that all the commandments are reduced to one ending in two: "Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your soul". "You love your neighbor as yourself". And it ends with a very clear conclusion: "There is no commandment greater than these