Monday of the 1st week of Lent 2 March 2020
Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18 The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: ‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. ‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord. ‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’
Psalm 18 Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.
Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. ‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” ‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.” ‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
The word of God for the whole community of Israel is, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
Of the 18 injunctions that come with this word only two are directly about God;
- do not profane the name of your God
- and you must fear your God.
The remaining 16 concern how we treat our neighbour.
In the parable Jesus also points out what it means to serve God:
- feed the hungry;
- give drink to the thirsty;
- welcome the stranger;
- clothe the naked,
- visit the sick and those in prison.
But Jesus goes a step further;
I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.
If we follow this parable our charity will not be self-serving, because there is no reward.
It is easy to feed and give drink, to clothe and welcome, and to visit those who are significant in our lives or who in some way, ‘return the favour’, show appreciation, or grow in their love for us.
However, there is no personal gain for us to care for those who are insignificant to us, those whose lives have no real impact on our own.
Our Lenten practice is not about ourselves, but for those who miss out, “the least”. Who are the least of these in the world today? Who are those whose needs are not significant enough for me to reach out to them?
I was reading of the plight of thousands of Syrians from Idlib fleeing the armies of Damascus. The ten-year tragedy that is the Syrian war has so many victims who are of no significance to us. Are they not “the least”, the “little ones” of today? Among them are many many innocent children, traumatized by war and unimaginable abuses. I read of one small child who died of cold during the night. Another family is rent asunder with grief and pain.
To come back to “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
Holiness requires us to care for the whole. Ignoring the least, ignores a part of the whole. There is no separation between us. If we ignore the least, we ignore apart of ourselves and the dignity of the whole suffers. How can we begin to think of ourselves as holy people, so long as such children continue to perish so insignificantly.