Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday in the 1st Week of Lent
Remembering Why

Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Matthew 25:31-46

Lent is a good time to remember what we should and should not do as Christians. It is a good time to examine our conscience to see how well we are keeping the commandments. And today’s readings help us to do this by recalling for us some of the key dos and don’ts of our faith. You shall not act dishonestly… You shall not go around spreading slander… You shall not stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake… You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart… You shall love your neighbor as yourself… Feed the hungry… Clothe the naked… Welcome the stranger…. Visit the prisoner... Of course, we already know all this. Even so, from time to time, it’s good to be reminded, so that we can check ourselves.

But this is only one part of what our readings are telling us today. Even more important than the details of what we should and should not do, our readings help us to remember why. They recall for us the reason for keeping the commandments. We find this, for example, in the same sentence that occurs no less than four times in the brief first reading: I am the Lord. For the people of Israel, these four words are loaded with meaning. They remind them not only of why they should obey, but also of whom they are obeying. For this Lord who is giving them all these commandments is the same One who has freed them from slavery in Egypt, accompanied them through their years of wandering in the wilderness, and is now leading them into the Promised Land. This is the Lord their God, who has shown himself to be as powerful as he is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. This is the One who has their best interests at heart. This is the One who is teaching them the way to true happiness. Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.

And, for us who are Christian, our readings give us even more reason to obey. For they remind us that, in Christ, the God of the Israelites has become one of us, even to the point of accepting death on a cross. And, of course, every one of us has his or her own personal memories of how the Lord has freed us and saved us, of how the Lord has been faithful to us and is continually showing us the way to happiness and fullness of life. How then can we not listen to the voice of the Lord? How can we not show mercy to those most in need, when Jesus clearly reminds us that any kindness shown to others is shown to him? Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me…

Lent is indeed a good time to remember what we should and should not do. But, perhaps even more than that, it is also primarily a time for remembering why and whom it is we obey.

What memories do the readings evoke in you today?

1 comment:

  1. Last weekend's edition of The Sunday Times carried a news report on a handful of contractors / suppliers who turned down contracts offerred them by the Integrated Resorts, on the grounds that gambling goes against the grain of their business ethics. Although the sum involved was not large, these corporations nonetheless made a very potent statement - and paid the price for it. In big time business and corporate life, it is very easy to drown out the voice of the LORD by rationalising and by being beguiled by competing voices.

    Like tuning into a radio station, one needs to filter off all stray signals and noise. This pre-supposes that one KNOWS the frequency of the desired radio station and what constitute 'stray signals' and 'noise'. And the means to do this is grace. Gratuitous grace.

    Looking back, the LORD HAS freed me. He HAS been faithful to me. He HAS taught me true happiness. My faith journey has been one led by an incredibly patient and loving Father, mentor and friend. Amazing grace.