March 20, 2020 Friday of the Third Week of Lent
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.
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, you desire mercy and not sacrifice. Teach me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.
1. Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength: Christianity is not for the weak-willed. Loving the Lord with heart, soul, and mind takes strength, fortitude, and perseverance. To others, it may seem that spending time in daily prayer is simply frittering away time that could be used more productively, but Christians know from experience that giving the Lord the first fruits of the day is the very best use of time. It’s calisthenics for the soul and requires a strong-willed, loving heart.
2. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: We tend to be very self-aware, knowing what delights us, how we like to spend free time, and what brings us consolation. Do we know these things about our neighbor (understood as family members, friends, and those who live nearby)? Fewer than half of American adults know most or all of their neighbors (Pew Research Center). As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor, and the first step is to get to know their names. May we be builders of strong Christian communities for the glory of God.
3. You Are Not Far from the Kingdom of God: Imagine hearing these words from the mouth of Jesus. Could there be a greater consolation on this side of heaven? The scribe in this Gospel knew the commandments and came to Jesus with a sincere question. He also showed by his spontaneous proclamation that he had been imbued with wisdom from the Holy Spirit, as Jesus acknowledged when he “saw that he answered with understanding.” We follow the scribe’s example when we strive to know our faith and, in prayer, listen attentively to Jesus as he inspires us with word, sacrament, and life circumstances to understand heavenly truths. Then we, too, can be assured of wisdom and understanding as we are drawn more deeply into the kingdom of God.
Conversing with Christ: Dearest Jesus, grant me the virtues of fortitude and perseverance so that I may strengthen my heart, mind, and soul. With this strength, I will be able to concern myself with the needs and interests of my neighbor so that I may sincerely love others.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reach out and greet one neighbor whom I don’t already know.