March 17, 2023
by Nancy Shirley
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 241

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

Praying Lent Home

Lent for the Older Brother/Sister
of the Prodigal Son/Daughter

Returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Today’s gospel’s message is one of my favorites – not only the content that Jesus shares but also the whole scenario.  I enjoy the synoptic gospels and their telling of Jesus’s life – the stories connect me to Jesus as a real being that I can imagine in the various scenarios presented.  Since a small child I was always able to have an image of Jesus – a man that walked the face of this earth.  My images of God were much more muddled – someone in flowing white robes and wild hair?  A voice in the cloud?  My child mind could not quite grasp what God could be or look like.  This is not unlike my ability (or rather inability) then (perhaps still) to visualize a “soul.”  I would try to picture what Heaven looked like and at one point settled on an image of our souls being bright, glowing balls of light that rolled around Heaven interacting with each other.  The images of Jesus were always so much more realistic perhaps from numerous pictures and depiction in various movies and television. Jesus has always been palpable to me – someone I could reach out to in times of need and in times of gratitude.  A Shepherd, indeed, who would guide me and shelter me.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke convey the life of this wonderful Counselor and allow me to enter into that life through their words and the stories that were created by those words.  I have been blessed to be exposed to an Ignatian approach/meditation of using our imagination to enter into the scripture and dialogue/experience the story as a participant not just a reader.  For me, the stories of the synoptic gospels allow me to practice that and come face to face with what is happening.  So . . .  I wanted to approach the gospel today in that way for my reflection.

The crowd is quite large today, everyone pushing forward to see what’s going on.  The scribes are at it again trying to get Jesus to say something that they can use against Him.  I try to get closer so I hear the conversation – I can see Mary of Magdala ahead – as always listening intently with her eyes set on Jesus and His every word. The scribe asks: "Which is the first of all the commandments?"  I hold my breath – how will He answer?  They are just waiting for him to dispute Moses’ teaching or say something that will be seen as contrary to the Torah.  I silently pray, please Jesus, choose your words carefully.  Then Jesus speaks – boldly yet with humility and kindness:

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.

To my amazement, the scribes seem satisfied with His response and continue with some agreement and no one dares ask further questions. I shake my head since it is full of questions.  I have no problem with understanding the first statement as the most important commandment.  However, I’m baffled by the second – who is my neighbor? How can I love my neighbor as myself?  This certainly seems impossible.  Perhaps this is meant to be interpreted as one of those parables I’ve heard that Jesus tells. His teachings seem so matter of fact and simple in many ways but challenging to be able to live in such seemingly simple directives. I want so much to follow Him as I see others do, but how can I live up to those standards?  How can I give up what I have – my home, my belongings – and follow.  Yet, the apostles, as they are called, seem to have a contentment, a serenity that has always been elusive to me no matter how much I have.  Is that the reward for following Him?  An inner peace and new sense of priorities where the physical possessions on earth have little or no meaning and we await a more glorious kingdom.  I want to find that contentment and focus on what is most important.  I think I will tag along at least for a bit and maybe learn who my neighbor really is . . .

I did not forget that it is St. Patrick’s Day – wishing my Irish friends a blessing I found (there are so many Irish blessings!!):

May God grant you always…
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.

Also, please pray for a dear friend of ours, the epitome of an Irish minstrel – charm and wit, he surely kissed the Blarney Stone at least once.  KQ is having surgery today to remove two fingers on his remaining hand.  His chronic debilitating health condition has already resulted in amputation of both legs and one hand.  Please pray for successful surgery and recovery and that this can be the end of his surgeries.

This is one of my favorite songs & celebrates his love of music. It reminds me of an Irish lilt – perfect for today!!

How Can I Keep from Singing?

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