Sunday, March 1, 2009

Be Holy, For I, the LORD your God, am Holy.

All of you, I trust, know the Ten Commandments. Some of us, I'm sure, learned them when we were youngsters, and may even be able to recite them by rote today. If, like me, you attended a grammar school taught by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, whether in New England or neighboring Quebec, you chanted: "Un seul Dieu tu adoreras, et aimeras parfaitement. Dieu en vain ne jureras, Ni autre chose pareillement." Rote learning, especially in rhyme, sharpens memory and retention, or so I'm told. On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily improve understanding.

Since I'm going back to school days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days, let me ask the class a simple question: Where are the Ten Commandments, in the form we learned them in school, listed in the Old Testament? The answer may surprise you: Nowhere! There are two passages, Exodus 20:2-17, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, that list divine precepts in the same style as the Decalogue, but the first list contains 14, and the second list, 16 "Thou shalt not"s, and the two lists are not identical, by any stretch of an editor's imagination.

In the First Reading of Monday in the First Week of Lent, Leviticus 19:1-18, the LORD speaks to Moses, and gives the People yet another list of "Thou shalt not"s which an observant member of God's people is enjoined to abide by. It really doesn't need much commentary: just pay close attention. Later on, there's going to be a test!

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel, and say to them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am I holy.
(Each of these precepts concludes with "for I am the LORD")

Respect your parents, and observe my holy days,
for I am the LORD.
Do not turn to idols, or cast metal statues
of other gods for yourselves.
Do not steal, lie or speak falsely to one another.
Do now swear falsely by my name,
and thus profane the name of the LORD.
Do not steal from your neighbor or defraud him.
Do not hold back the wages of a hired man.
Do not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block
in the path of the blind.
Do not show favoritism to the wealthy,
nor partiality to the poor, but treat everyone justly.
Do not go about spreading slander among the people.
Do not stand idly by, when your neighbor's life
or wellbeing is at stake.
Do not bear hatred in your heart for your brother,
even when you find it necessary to reprove him.
Do not seek revenge, or bear a grudge against anyone,
but love your neighbor as yourself.
For I am the LORD your God.

Today's Gospel, Matthew 15:31-46, describes, the words of Jesus himself, what it will be like when the Son of Man, the King of Kings, comes again in his glory to judge the people of the world, separating them one from another in the same procedure by which a shephard separates sheep from goats, putting 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;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you
since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat.
I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink.
I was a stranger and you invited me in.
I needed clothes and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you looked after me.
I was in prison, and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him:
Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you;
Or thirsty, and gave you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger, and invite you in;
or needing clothes and gave you clothing?
When did we see you sick, or in prison, and go to visit you?

Then the King will reply: I tell you the truth,
Whatever you did for one of the least of these,
my brothers and my sisters, you did it for me.

Then He will say to those on his left:
Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry, but you gave me nothing to eat.
I was thirsty but you gave me nothing to drink.
I was a stranger, but you did not invite me in.
I needed clothes, but you did not give me clothing.
I was sick, or in prison, and you did not look after me.

They also will answer:
Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger,
or needing clothes, or sick, or in prison, and we did not help you?

And he will reply:
I tell you the truth:
Whatever you failed to do for these,
the least of my sisters and brothers,
you did not do for me.

Then they will go away to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.

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