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You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important

First Reading: Hosea 14:2-10

Thus says the LORD:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.
Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity,
and receive what is good, that we may render
as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.
Assyria will not save us,
nor shall we have horses to mount;
We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’
to the work of our hands;
for in you the orphan finds compassion.”

I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols?
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
“I am like a verdant cypress tree”–
Because of me you bear fruit!

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 81:6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 AND 17

R. (see 11 and 9a) I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
An unfamiliar speech I hear:
“I relieved his shoulder of the burden;
his hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, will you not hear me?”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.

Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

NAB

march 4

Last summer I was captivated reading the novel The Help. Set during the racial turbulence of 1960’s America, the book chronicles one woman’s mission to help the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi to have a voice. The character who continues to inspires me is the maid Aibileen, who in the story develops a beautiful relationship with a young girl in her care who is often ignored by her mother. When Aibileen is threatened with the loss of her job she repeats to little girl the phrase she had already told her many, many times before: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”

I’ve often reflected on this loving image at my own low points, when I have struggled to see my own goodness or when I have let the weight of sin mar my dignity. “How can I ever possibly love my own neighbor as myself when I don’t love myself well in the first place?” I’ve wondered many times.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? How often do we let feelings of despair creep into our hearts, or believe the lies that we aren’t “good enough” or that our mistakes are “too big” to be forgiven? How hard it is to see and accept that the Lord loves every inch of us, and that He sees in us, as Aibileen did, the potential for something great?

Maybe that is why our Lord gives us those two commandments from the Gospel of Mark in their proper order:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

And,

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps if we spent more time this Lent first loving the Lord and meditating on all His goodness we could then see that we too, made in His image, are also good. Maybe then we would see that the Lord whispers to us in every moment of uncertainty that we, too, are kind, and smart, and important, and that we are loved by Him beyond all possible imaginings. Maybe then our hearts would be free to truly love our brothers and sisters in need.

Spend some time asking our Lord how He loves you, and write them down. Then make a sacrifice of time in the next week, in a word or in a note, to affirm another sister for her own goodness.

photo credit

Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.

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