Ps 18:2-4, 47, 51
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “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.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Good News Reflection: Perfect Love
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus asserted the two greatest commands of the Law. He quoted from the ancient Hebrew scriptures, which we have for today’s first reading. And the second reading, from the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, explains how the Law of Love supersedes or fulfills all other laws. Jesus, who loved perfectly and never sinned against anyone, sacrificed himself for sinners. Therefore, we who want to follow him to heaven need to follow in his footsteps of love, by loving God and everyone else whole-heartedly.
Try as we might, though, we love imperfectly; we sin. The best penance, then, is an act of love, especially if it’s a sacrifice offered to (or for) those who were harmed by our sin. But the damage we’ve caused has a ripple effect that goes far beyond anything we can see. This is remedied in the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus — through the priest — accepts our remorse and absolves our sins, while the entire earthly Body of Christ (the Church) — through the priest — accepts our penances for the earthly damage that our sins have caused.
Penance is not only an act of love, it’s designed to strengthen our resolve to choose love when tempted to sin again. If the priest gives us an easy penance (for example, “Say the Lord’s Prayer and three Hail Marys”), if we really want to become holier, we should ask God during those three Hail Marys for a penance that’s a more difficult act of love. We should choose a sacrifice, something that requires loving God with our whole heart, soul, and mind as well as loving ourselves and our neighbors just as much.
Saint Anthony Mary Claret said, “The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal.” How high is your love flying? Zeal is a good measuring instrument of how much we love God.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
Whom have you loved imperfectly this week? What act of penance could you do that would be an exercise in loving them better, treating them the way Jesus would? When will you complete the reconciliation through the sacraments of the Church?
Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
What does “zeal” mean? Name some of the ways that we love God with zeal. Tell the story of a time when you made a sacrifice because of love. How did this reveal Jesus to others?
My Lord: Help me to sort all my feelings according to my wholehearted love for You, being certain that You will give me whatever is good for my life. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica