Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
Lent is just begun. Today is the first weekday of our annual spiritual observance that leads towards the festivity of Easter. The spiritual reflection and self-scrutiny we are encouraged to embrace in the Lenten seasons urges us to consider how we might give ourselves more generously to God and how we might more effectively ‘do God’s will.’
Today’s readings offer an extended reflection on these perennial Christian concerns. They are really a gorgeous, and challenging, meditation on the meaning of ‘holiness’ as understood in the Jewish and Christian traditions.
For the good Jew, the test or proof of faithfulness to God’s covenant was found in right conduct. Faith and obedience to God’s law led to just conduct, to respect for the dignity and rights of others, for generous and supportive outreach to the needy and marginalized. In this respect, Judaism was much more concerned with proper, upright behavior than with right thinking or ‘orthodoxy’.
In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew’s famous ‘Last Judgment’ scene, Jesus echoes the ancient faith code of his own people. Going a step beyond, he proposes his own, stunning standard of judgment for his disciples: ". . .whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me!"
In the spirit of Lenten self-scrutiny, we are encouraged to ask ourselves the tough questions: how do I measure up to Jesus’ standard? Do I pass the test? Is my behavior reflective of my belief? Do my relationships with those around me mirror my Christian convictions?
Fr. Jim Thoman, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.