Friday of the Third Week of Lent
(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 12:28-34)
In a sad ballad Elvis Presley used to sing, “It's only words, 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.” Words are like rockets that bring the one who prays close to God.
But, as everyone knows, words often fall short of reality. Sometimes words are used deceptively or, at least, in ways that do not match one’s intentions. “I would do anything for you,” a university student told his girlfriend. “Would you go to the library with me on Friday evening?” she asked. “I would,” he said, “but I am busy then.” Words then are not enough. One must be sincere in what one says.
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 that the scribe’s approval for Jesus’ articulation of the greatest commandment is not enough for salvation. He must not only approve Jesus’ words but live them. When we say that we love God, we also must demonstrate our sincerity with actions of self-sacrifice on behalf of others.