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Friday, March 20, 2020

Reflection: 2020-03-20 Friday 3rd Week of Lent

Hosea 14:1-9; Psalm 81; Mark 12:28b-34

In the midst of all these difficulties we experience, we look at the government, political and spiritual leaders, medical researchers, doctors, nurses, friends, to help solve the problems. While God has given them the authority to address the current situation, the eventual source of this authority and wisdom is God himself. Yes, we obey our leaders on what they tell us to do, specifically in isolating ourselves, maintaining a healthy distance when we interact in person, but we should not forget the reason why we do this: to prevent ourselves from being infected by the disease, and more importantly, to prevent others from being infected by us. This is what Jesus says in the Gospel today: to love our neighbor.

One of the difficulties today is we have forgotten what is essential: the salvation of our souls. The First Reading reminds us to return to the Lord. In the midst of all this calamity, many pray to God asking him to resolve this pandemic. This is encouraging and laudable. But praying to God is only part of returning to the Lord. The word return means to turn again. For those who have forgotten God, praying for the stop of this pandemic is the first step. But this turning again has a direction: to the Lord. Hosea did not say "return to God", but return to the Lord. And this is the key word: the Lord. When we return to the Lord, we admit God is our Lord. He is not an impersonal God whom we call when we need and dispose when we don’t. God is not our slave. He is OUR Lord. We submit our lives to him. Hosea is very clear: you have stumbled because of your iniquity. We cannot ask God to listen to our prayers and at the same time, live the way we want. To call God as Lord means to live our lives according to his will.

The Lord tells us through Hosea: take words with you and return to the Lord, say to him: Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Hosea tells us to take words with us and return to the Lord. We use our words to return to the Lord. This is why for Catholics, confession to a priest is important. We speak out our sins in words to return to the Lord. Hosea also tells us to ask God to:
  1. Take away our guilt. This implies we admit our sins. James 2:13 tells us: mercy rejoices against justice. Yes, God is merciful, and his mercy knows no end. BUT we must not forget: God is also just, which is why James also mentions justice. The reason why we have mercy is because God has released us from the punishment we deserve! This will not happen if we do not confess our sins with words. Mercy applies AFTER we have justly admitted our sins and stand ready to face to consequence of our sins. Mercy cannot be applied if there is no admission of guilt, because there is no repentance! BUT if we confess our sins, no matter what things we have done, God will forgive.
  2. Accept that which is good. This is a plea to God to receive whatever good we have left. This is not asking God to look at our good works. But to take whatever good is left in us after we have confessed our sins. This is a prayer of total surrender because we tell him to take everything in us: our faults and our strengths.
It is only when God has forgiven us that we can offer the fruit of our lips which says Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy. When we return to the Lord, we admit that we will trust only God, that we will do what Jesus says in the Gospel today: that there is only ONE God. While we pray for a cure for the virus, we also remember, it is God who gives wisdom to the researchers. No one can save us except the Lord. Some trust in horses, some trust in chariots, but we trust the name of the Lord because there is ONLY ONE God! And we are to love him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Notice Jesus repeats the word all when he said ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind, ALL our strength. There is no middle ground. We either love God or we don’t. If we had run after things or persons, thinking they can save us then we need to return to the Lord, confess our sins and submit to him.

The Responsorial Psalm reminds us why we should submit to the Lord: I relieve your shoulder of the burden, your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you… It ends with a promise: that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. If we want to obtain the promises of God, we need to call him Lord: listen to him, walk in his ways.

I pray we may all reject sin, confess our sins and return to the Lord.


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