1st Week of Lent
1st Reading: Lev 19:1-2, 11-18
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. “You shall not steal. You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another. You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. “You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer. You shall not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the Lord. “You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly. You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the Lord. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove him, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Gospel: Mt 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
THE GOLDEN STANDARDS: In the Old Testament the golden standards are adherance to the Ten Commandments that guide towards holiness. In the New Testament, these commandments are brought closer home, by asking the question: What have you done to these my brothers? The life task is made clear. We might do lot of things in life, and often be extremely religious. Our religious calendar perhaps is even crowded with many programs all year round. We are however, reminded that all our religiosity and pious practices may not match up to the demands of God, if we do not adhere to these measures of blessings. What counts for God is how we have come across to the suffering, the needy, and the people on the margins- those who the Lord considers “my brothers”. If our efforts do not make a difference to such lives, we have failed to live up to HIS standards.
Prayer: God of all humanity, help us to see you active in the needy persons around me.
CALLED TO RIGHTEOUSNESS: It is a common African saying that a fruit does not fall far from its tree. Human nature shares in the nature of God. Because God is holy, we too then must be holy for we share in his nature. We demonstrate holiness by being champions of social justice. Holiness is not so much in ritualistic conduct as it is in acts of love and mercy. We must have the courage to take Jesus from worship premises on to the streets and homes of people. Being like God is allowing our hearts, feet, hands, shoulders and mouths, and all that we are to be available to those in need of them. The hungry should be fed; our feet must run to the aid of those in need; our mouths must speak out against injustice and encourage those losing hope. We must be available to reassure the dying of divine love. It is in being magnanimous to the weak and erring, to the poor and vulnerable, to the sick and dying – who may not promise reciprocate our kindness that we act like God. Loving the neighbour as the self is the most visible proof of holiness. Choosing to love even the unlovable is the most perfect of love. This is true righteousness.
WE ARE JUDGED ON COMPASSION: On Ash Wednesday, Jesus gave us a life programme: when you pray… when you fast… when you give alms… There are three aspects of Christian life here: prayer – our relationship with God; self-control – our relationship with ourselves; and compassion – our relationship with others. The Liturgy of the Word during the weekdays of Lent revolves around one of these themes. Today, we are invited to focus on compassion. The first reading reminds us that the core values of the Law of Moses are love of God and love of neighbour. The last judgement scene, portrayed in the gospel text of today tells us very bluntly that we are going to be judged based on our compassion towards our needy neighbours. Are we ready to take up the challenge?