Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Hosea 14:2-10 ; Mark 12 : 28-34
WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Which is the first?
In replying to the scribes question, “which is the first of all commandments”, Jesus answers with the two great commandments, that is, to love God and to love our neighbour. It is easy to overlook the solemn call that precedes the first of the two great commandments: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” These are the first ten words of the Ten Commandments. Our Lord does not leave them out nor abbreviate them. They are significant therefore. In these ten words comes the starting point or the basic principle for all the rest of the commandments.
What is it saying? It is saying that God loved us first. God had chosen to reveal Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to make them a great nation. And when God’s people were enslaved He revealed His special care for His people through the prophet Moses who led God’s people to the Promised Land. As the adopted people of Israel we too have been loved first by God. By the waters of baptism He has delivered us from the slavery of sin; and He has poured His grace into our hearts through the Holy Spirit He has given to us.
The first ten words tell us that God loves us first, and the Ten Commandments that follow show us how we are to love God back. The two Great Commandments of Jesus summarise the Ten Commandments and indeed the whole Law. The commandments to love God above all, to worship no other gods, to keep God’s name holy, and to keep the Sabbath, are how we are to fulfil the first Great Commandment. The second Great Commandment is the pouring forth of this love of God to our neighbour by obeying the rest of Ten Commandments: honouring our father and mother, not killing human life, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not lusting after others, not coveting our neighbour’s goods. Obedience to these Ten Commandments is how we show we love God who loved us first. Disobedience of these Commandments is a grave sin against God (and can be in certain conditions mortal sins). To disobey any of these commandments is to shut ourselves off from God’s life of grace. This is not because we are being punished by God for not keeping his ‘rules’, but because the action we have chosen to do by our own free will takes us deliberately away from God’s life of communion and grace.
God loved us first and He has even sacrificed Himself on the Cross for our salvation, to save us from our sins. Our response to His love is obedience in love – obedience to the Commandments He has given us.
SING we merrily unto God our strength : make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob.
2. Take the psalm, bring hither the tabret : the merry harp with the lute.
3. Blow up the trumpet in the new-moon : even in the time appointed, and upon our solemn feast-day.
4. For this was made a statute for Israel : and a law of the God of Jacob.
5. This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony : when he came out of the land of Egypt, and had heard a strange language.
6. I eased his shoulder from the burden : and his hands were delivered from making the pots.
7. Thou calledst upon me in troubles, and I delivered thee : and heard thee what time as the storm fell upon thee.
8. I proved thee also : at the waters of strife.
9. Hear, O my people, and I will assure thee, O Israel : if thou wilt hearken unto me,
10. There shall no strange god be in thee : neither shalt thou worship any other god.
11. I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt : open thy mouth wide, and I shall fill it.
12. But my people would not hear my voice : and Israel would not obey me.
13. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts : and let them follow their own imaginations.
14. O that my people would have hearkened unto me : for if Israel had walked in my ways,
15. I should soon have put down their enemies : and turned my hand against their adversaries.
16. The haters of the Lord should have been found liars : but their time should have endured for ever.
17. He should have fed them also with the finest wheat-flour : and with honey out of the stony rock should I have satisfied thee.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting out sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.