Friday of the third Week of Lent
(Hosea 14:2-10; Mark 12:28-34)
The popular children’s book The Giving Tree tells how an apple tree benefits a man from childhood to old age. In youth the tree provides a boy food and a place of recreation. As he grows older, the tree becomes a man’s source of income and lumber. And in old age the tree supports the elder’s need for rest. In today’s first reading the prophet Hosea speaks of Israel having such gracious qualities as the “giving tree.”
The Lord says that after its chastening, Israel will return to His justice. It will look to neither idols nor allies for salvation, but find the path of righteousness. Then it will flourish like cedar, cypress, and olive trees. The prophet’s poetry is given more meaningful expression in Jesus’ description of God’s greatest commandments as love of God and neighbor.
Love of others seems like a simple lesson, but it takes most of us a lifetime to figure out. Even children demonstrate greed and vindictiveness. It is a practice that originates in the Word of God, is conditioned by suffering, and is nurtured by prayer.