Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Greatest Commandment

By Colleen O’Sullivan

“We shall say no more, “Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” (Hosea 14:4bc)

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.”  (Mark 12:28-31)

“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.”
(Psalm 81: 14, 17)

As I reflected on our first reading from the book of the prophet Hosea, I felt drawn to the line “We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands.”  I stared at my hands for a while, considering the things I can do every day.  Gradually my thoughts turned to the things my hands will never be able to accomplish.

I have no power to create a universe or a galaxy.  Not even a single star.  I can’t make day fade to evening or night give way to dawn.  I have no say over the weather; the sun shines, winds blow, storms come and go – all without a word from me.
I can’t singlehandedly create a human life.  I can’t eradicate suffering or death.

I can forgive the hurts inflicted on me personally by family, friends or strangers, but I can’t save the world or redeem creation.

When I look at these hands, I realize how little power I actually possess.  So, not much use in deifying their works.  Best to turn my gaze to the One for whom nothing is impossible, the One we love with all our being, the One we call God.  We love God in response to God’s unfathomable love for us.

Yet across millennia, we’ve worshipped everything from golden calves to ourselves.  We’ve strayed far afield at times.  But even when we’ve gone so far we feel cut off, like motherless children, God begs us to come home.  God has nothing but compassion and forgiveness for remorseful sinners.  With a love like that offered to us, how could we want to place anyone or anything else at the center of our lives?

Jesus takes this one step further in today’s Gospel reading.  Being so loved by the Father, we are asked to extend that same love, mercy and forgiveness to one another.  If we can’t do that, it makes a lie out of our professed love for the Lord.

Lent is a season for examining our hearts, for asking ourselves what separates us from God.  When you have a few minutes, read today’s Scripture readings in their entirety.  Ask yourself what is truly the most important person or thing in your life.  If the answer isn’t God, consider what you need to do to come home to the Lord.  Like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, God is eagerly anticipating our return.  God is waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

No comments: