Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday word, 11 Feb 2008

Monday, First Week of Lent (11 Feb 2008) Lv 19. 1-2,11-18; Ps 19; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Royal Law*

Early in Israel’s experience of God, right relationships with others was on a par with right relationship with God. Later right relationship with God sometimes overshadowed right relationship with people. The Pharisees tended in that direction, but Jesus recalled Leviticus: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This passage from Leviticus, which closed with those words so dear to Jesus, contained the commandments with some commentary. Judging with partiality was forbidden as was withholding wages and other oppression. Oaths were forbidden and also slander and evil talk; also vengeance and grudge-holding.

This is was no addendum to or misplaced writing of the commandments. Why? Because the entire chapter of Leviticus from which we heard about a third began and ended with I am the Lord. That phrase punctuates the chapter 14 more times! No mere list: the people were to revere each other with the same covenantal love with which God revered them.

Jesus made clear that the twin of loving God, namely loving others, is the sole criterion for reward or punishment. Not only do the least occupy a privileged place in God’s heart, God’s command to revere them is, as we echoed, Spirit and life.

Kenneth Untner, the late Bishop of Saginaw, decreed that every meeting in every parish of that Michigan diocese should always include the poor: “How do our deliberations affect the poor?” Like most prophets, Bishop Untner’s edict was not welcome by many people. Yet, who ought to consider the poor with reverence if not people who claim to follow Jesus?

The least--men, women and children without influence, those whom social structures force to the margins and keep there--demand our respect. If we ever ask where God may be found, Jesus made clear that we might touch God in the least brothers [and sisters] of our Messiah.

* This is the name given to the law of liberty by the Letter of James (2.8), much of which comments on Leviticus 19.
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