Friday of the Third Week of Lent
I've said it before, and I'll say it again now: the "Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me" rhyme is wrong, wrong, wrong. Words are important and we know this. People have anxiety about public speaking in part, I think, because we know the power of words to hurt, heal, unify, divide, and so on.
Of course those words can't be empty - or "mere words." But most of the time, our language and use of words really isn't merely empty! Today's scriptures ask us to think seriously about our words, and to use those words to change our lives.
Today's first reading is where I borrowed today's title (Hosea 14:2-10). The Israelites in this passage have fallen into a trap similar to ones you and I (or at least, I!) fall into nearly every day - the trap of thinking that my whole life - and that of many other people - might rise or fall based on what I alone might do. But Hosea reminds the Israelites in this passage that mighty kingdoms like Assyria (and their soldiers and horses!) are not going to save them; the work of their own hands doesn't do much either.
What will do so? Words of forgiveness, words of compassion, and people who take the time to understand and then LIVE out those words.
While we don't want to shirk working on our own and other's behalf, we also don't want to make our work and actions our idols. It is way too easy to get caught up in the work - and what do we lose then? We lose sight of why do the work in the first place! We get caught up in the work and forget to take time NOT to work, and instead, to love, to be generous, and let those things take precedence!
That, I think, is the strong point that Jesus makes in today's gospel reading (Mark 12:28-34). Love God and neighbor - ALL the work necessitated by the 613 commandments in the Old Testament is summed up in those phrases.
The great commandments are no mere words - and it takes a lifetime to learn to live them. This Lent, let us take a strong step toward becoming better lovers of God and neighbor by taking these words seriously.
- Jana M. Bennett