Homilette for February 29, 2008

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 12:28-34)

Elvis Presley used to sing a song called, “Words.” “It's only words,” he crooned, “and words are all I have to take your heart away.” In the first reading today, the prophet Hosea tells us that God wants us to woo His heart with words. “Take with you words,” the prophet says on behalf of God, “and return to the Lord.” Our words are like rockets that bring us close to God. We don’t have to climb any mountains or cross any seas. We only have to say that we are sorry for having offended Him.

But as we all know words often fall short of reality. Sometimes we use words deceptively or, at least, in ways that do not match our abilities. “I would do anything for you,” a university student would tell his girlfriend. “Would you spend Friday night at the library with me?” she asked in response. “I would,” he said, “but I am busy at that time.” We must also be sincere in heart which is usually demonstrated by self-sacrifice.

The step between words on the lips and sincerity in the heart is all that is missing from the scribe’s entering the Kingdom of God in the gospel. Jesus does not mean to criticize the man when he says that is he is “not far from the Kingdom of God.” He only means to say the scribe’s approval for Jesus’ own great commandments is not enough for salvation. He must take Jesus’ words to heart and put them into practice. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, both confession with the mouth and belief in the heart are necessary to be saved. In biblical times, when speaking openly about faith in Christ might arouse familial or public censure, such speech might have sufficed as proof of sincerity. Certainly today, however, most of us most of the time need to demonstrate our sincerity with actions of self-sacrifice.