Reading (Hosea 14:2-10) Gospel (St. Mark 12:28-34)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that the greatest commandment in the whole law is to love the Lord with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole strength and your whole mind, to put absolutely everything into the love of God. Now we have heard that thousands and thousands of times; the problem is doing it. We know that is what we are supposed to do, but we do not. And when we hear what the prophet Hosea tells the people of Israel, he tells them that they are supposed to return to the Lord, their God, because they have collapsed through their guilt, and they are to take with them words and return to the Lord. They are to ask the Lord to forgive their iniquity, but they are also to recognize that there is no other god. They are to proclaim to God, “Assyria will not save us; we will say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands. There is nothing else; there will be no false gods and we are not going to count on anything else to save us.” That is part of the way we are to put God first.
And that is where the problem comes in. Today, most of us, I do not suspect, are carving little false gods and idols to bow down before, but we have lots of other things. More than likely, we as Americans are not counting on any other country to save us and to be our heroes. But it is all the other things like the money that we count on to save us and the material things that we count on to provide our comfort and our ease; it is the things that we look to to take care of our needs rather than looking to God.
We have to recognize, first of all, that it is God who provides the various things for us. But we need to look to Him and we need to trust in Him. That is where most of us fail pretty miserably. We trust in God, most of us, just a tiny little bit. We like to tell ourselves how much we trust Him, but all we need to do is find ourselves in any kind of difficult situation and we find how quickly we lose our peace. We find ourselves getting anxious, worried, agitated, upset, frustrated, and so on. The reason for that is very simple: We do not trust God. We do not trust that He is going to take care of us in that situation. We do not trust that this particular situation is part of His providence for us. We just simply do not trust Him. And when we see that some of the situations we get anxious and upset about are very small, then we see just how little our trust is in God. When we find that in the small things we can maintain our peace and our trust but in larger things we get anxious and worried, then we know it is at that point that we do not trust. We have developed it somewhat, but it is still not there entirely and we still get all upset even in larger things.
We realize, then, that what we are doing is trusting in other things, whether they be people or money or material things or business or whatever it might be that we are trusting in – whatever it is, it is not God. So we realize that we love the Lord, our God, but not with our whole heart and our whole soul and our whole mind and our whole strength. And I do not suspect we need to say a whole lot about loving our neighbor as ourselves because I think we know how we love ourselves and how we fail to love our neighbor. And so we see that the two greatest commandments in the law are regularly violated – not on purpose, out of weakness.
We need to return to the Lord and we need to beg His mercy. We also need to acknowledge that there is nothing else that is going to save us. Our money will not get us to Heaven; nobody else is going to get us to Heaven; neither will anybody else be standing next to us on the Day of Judgment so that we can point to the other person and say, “But it’s this person over here, and this is why this happened.” No, we are going to stand before the Lord alone. As Job said, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb and naked I will go back again.” We will have nothing on the Day of Judgment: no excuses, nothing to hide behind; it is going to be God and us, and that is all. So if we are going to try to trust God on the Day of Judgment – which is bigger than anything that we have to deal with here – then we have to learn how to trust Him here. We need to put Him first; we need to allow Him to be God, and to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.