7 March 2022- Monday, Week 1 of Lent
Optional Memorial: Ss Perpetua and Felicity
1st Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
Practical guidance for worship and for social compassion
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the Lord your God.
When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the Lord; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
Responsorial: from Psalm 19
R./: Your words, o Lord, are Spirit and they are life
The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple. (R./)
The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes. (R./)
The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just. (R./)
May the spoken words of my mouth
And the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock! (R./)
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
The final judgment, based on “As you did it to these..”
Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Live sparingly, for love’s sake
When Jesus identifies himself with people in critical need, like hunger and thirst, nakedness and imprisonment, he is inviting us examine our conscience on basic social issues, about compassion, sharing and justice.
The underlying value of our social and economic life all need shaking up, if we are to fulfil the command in Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” How this contrasts with the ultra-capitalist culture of xx developed world. Our market-based economy seems to funnel wealth upward to the already wealthy few. It also sanctions bloated salary “top-ups” for already highly paid managers, while cutting medical and social helps to those less fortunate. Some acute political observers are calling for systemic reform and a fairer distribution of resources if we are to avoid social disorder and revolution.
This could happen if well-off people were to take the Lenten message to heart, and look with empathy at the lives of those at the bottom of the pay-scale. By committing to more fairness, rich people could help the destitute gain self-respect; by gracious acceptance the poor can teach the proud how to be humble before God and neighbour.
The deepest basis of morality is our shared identity as children of God. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is a bedrock principle. Unless this divine law is followed, then at the judgment Jesus can do nothing else but say: “I do not know you!” Our final judgment will ratify how we have responded to the moral obligations of our human nature. Listing some of these, Jesus added this sublime ideal: “As often as you did it for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.” He invites us to see our neighbours as bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh.
The villagers in Nazareth did not recognize the grace of God present to them in Jesus. To them he seemed no more than “the carpenter, the son of Mary,” too ordinary a man to be in any way God’s special instrument of grace. And when, years later, he was crucified by the Romans, his critics regarded this as the final proof of his insignificance.
“‘Tis we, ’tis our estranged faces / that miss the many-splendoured thing” wrote Francis Thompson. At the Last Judgment, many will ask, “when did we ever see you in need of our help?” Just as xx contemporaries ignored God’s presence in him, it is often hidden from us too. We need a sharper, clearer vision in order to perceive the deeper truth. God can be found in simple things and in the needs of others around us. Did Jesus not say, “whoever welcomes a child welcomes me”? There can be more potential in our daily encounters than we realize at the time, a chance to do something precious and pleasing to God.