March 16th, 2007
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
School of Nursing
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The days of Lent are passing quickly and we are now about halfway
in our Lenten journey. Today's scripture readings reflect the fact
that we are in the midst of Lent. In these readings there are three
lines, one from each reading, that speak to me in a special way.
In the first reading from the prophet Hosea, we hear the haunting
refrain in which God calls upon the people of Israel. "Return,
O Israel, to the Lord, your God." The prophets repeated this
call many times during the Old Testament. The people of Israel often
succumbed to temptation and fell into sin. Yet God always patiently
called upon them to return to him. Many times he sent the prophets
to deliver this message. And God was always faithful to the covenant
he had made with Abraham. God always forgave the people and welcomed
them back to him after they had sinned. As we observe the season
of Lent, God is calling to each of us just as he called to the people
of Israel long ago. He is calling upon us to confess our sinfulness
and return to him. God is asking us to repent and to resolve to
avoid sin in the future.
In the responsorial psalm God again calls out in the words of the
psalmist: "I am the Lord your God: Hear my voice." In
this refrain the psalmist bemoans the fact that very often the people
of Israel did not listen to and heed the words of God. Later, the
psalmist speaks even more plaintively: "If only my people would
hear me." Then we hear of all the good things God will do for
the people of Israel when they do listen to him. In the middle of
this Lent God is asking each of us to listen and hear his voice.
The key to our repentance and improvement in our relationship with
God is to listen. If we don't listen to God, we won't hear him calling
us to repentance. And so, I often think of Lent as a time to listen.
A time to listen to God as he calls me to repent of my sins and
seek forgiveness. A time when listening can help me to improve my
relationship with God.
In the gospel reading Jesus answers the scribe in words again reminiscent
of the Old Testament: "Hear O Israel." Once again we hear
how important it is to listen to the word of God. We need to listen
to and understand the words of the two great commandments before
we can learn to obey them. St. Mark emphasizes this when he tells
us that the scribe answered with understanding. The scribe listened
to the words of Jesus, and because he listened, he came to understand
the meaning of the two great commandments. Then he was able to speak
with understanding. And finally he earned the tremendous reward
of hearing the words of Jesus: "You are not far from the Kingdom
Of God." All of us long to hear these words from Jesus. I think
it all begins with listening. If we listen to the words of God we
will be able to answer God with understanding as did the scribe.
So during this Lent I am trying to listen to and understand the
words of God to me.
to the writer of this reflection.
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