Daily Reflection
March 23rd, 2001
Ray Bucko, S.J.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Hosea 14:2-10
Psalms 81:6-8, 8-9, 10-11, 14, 17
Mark 12:28-34

When I preach on this reading at a University Mass I am fond of beginning the sermon by asserting that Jesus taught at a Jesuit college.  This usually astounds the collegiate congregation  (or should I say those who are actually listening).  I point out that after the dialogue between the scribe and Jesus is finished the Gospel writer Mark states:  ďno one had the courage to ask him any more questions.Ē  This usually generates peels of laughter, the warm laughter of recognition!

As a teacher I can understand why a student might not want to answer a question.  What if Iím wrong and look foolish before my peers?  What if Iím wrong and I look less than competent before my teacher?  What if I simply donít know and stand there with my mouth hanging open or slammed shut?

But Iíve always been a bit puzzled as to why students are sometimes equally reluctant to ask questions.  Maybe itís the same thing:  Someone will know that I donít know something.  My question may make me look foolish or clueless.  What if I canít even formulate my question and then really look out of it?

When I was a kid (I still am by the way), my favorite Little Rascal episodes where the ones where the rascals were in school and gave funny answers to the teacherís questions.  What is the father of all waters?  The Mistersippi!  Who was the Hunchback of Notre Dame?  Lone Chaney!  What did George Washington say when crossing the Deleware?  Boop Boop Ba Doop!  Boop Boop Ba Doop!

But this dialogue in todayís gospel is not JUST questions and answers.  Jesus tells the scribe, based on the scribeís observation of the law that love of God and love of neighbor are the correct answer, that he is NOT FAR from the reign of God.  Wait a minute, when you answer the question arenít you supposed to get the prize, or, if youíre a Little Rascal, get at least a laugh?

Well, no.  Jesus uses this moment to teach the scribe and the crowd.  It is a point that Ignatius makes central to his own spirituality which he shares with us all through the Spiritual Exercises:  love shows itself more strongly in actions than in words.  ďYou are not farĒ means that you have the words, now produce the actions.

In this holy season of Lent we are reminded of the importance of actions, of the importance of a love that cares for the sick and visits the imprisoned, that comforts the sorrowing and sees Christ in the least of our sisters and brothers.

And so Hosea reminds each of us in the first reading to return to the Lord.  Use your words (a phrase my cousin is fond of employing with her children when they cry or whine) and express your sorrow and repentance, ask forgiveness of God and Neighbor, and be healed and loved even more deeply than before.

This is the message of the readings today.  We, too, are not far from the Kingdom of God.  We need but act:  forgive, and be forgiven, love and be loved!

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