Daily Reflection
March 16th, 2007

Tom Bannantine, S.J.

School of Nursing
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Hosea 14:2-10
Psalm 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17
Mark 12:28-34

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.

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