Monday of the First Week of Lent | Readings: Leviticus 19:1–2, 11–18; Matthew 25:31–46
If you read the First Reading from today’s Lectionary, you will note that it is from the Hebrew book of Leviticus 19 and sounds a bit like the more common version of the Ten Commandments that we all grew up with that is found in Exodus 20, yet is also very different. In both places there is a lot of verbiage before, during, and after, which makes the precise “ten” commandments not so clear or apparent, and makes one wonder how God got it all written on those tablets of stone that Moses was able to carry down the mountaintop. Maybe Moses had a donkey or a dolly. No wonder he broke them!
The important Gospel today is from Matthew 25, which is his final judgment scene. It seems to be placed in perfect juxtaposition to the Hebrew Ten Commandments. They are like two bookends revealing the beginning and conclusion of the great Judeo-Christian tradition, and even the tasks of the two halves of life.
Leviticus begins with the clear goals and boundaries that are necessary for the sake of a moral and a religious society, and the tangent is set in motion with the final so-called “Golden Rule.” This all leads and develops to create the Jesus phenomenon, and what could well be called Jesus’ “commandments,” which go far beyond mere boundary keeping to actually moving beyond all boundaries to take care of those who did not make it, do not fit in, the outsider, the criminal, the vulnerable, and the weak. It is quite a leap which, to be honest, many Christians have never made. You could obey the Ten Commandments perfectly all of your life and never come close to the mark that Jesus sets for the final judgment. Yet the promise and seed is entirely there in Leviticus 19:18: “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
The final leap that Jesus makes is even more astounding. He not only creates a moral equivalence between me and my neighbor, but finally between my neighbor and God! “What we do to others, even the least of the others, we do to God,” he says! It is almost too much to comprehend and surely leaves all of us among the goats.
“Be holy (whole) as I your God am holy (whole). . . . Show neither partiality to the weak, nor deference to the mighty, but judge all justly.” Leviticus 19:2, 15
“I assure you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me. . . .Whatever you neglected to do for one of the least of these, you neglected to do for me.” Matthew 25:40, 45
“Loving God, allow me to be a sheep at least once in a while, and never let me forget that most of my life I have been a goat.”