Monday of the First Week of Lent
The response to today’s Psalm proclaims “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” To what extent do we actually believe this? When we think of the word of God, do we think of something spiritual and life-giving, or just another set of rules to follow? The first reading for today is a series of moral commands from Leviticus describing how we are to treat our neighbors. The temptation is to simply see the reading nothing more than that. But if we look back at it, we see that before all the specific precepts are the statement “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” What we have before us are actually concrete guides for how to love our neighbor as God does, and how to be holy like Him.
The same question can be asked when we look at the gospel reading today. In the gospel, we see the famous story of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25. This passage is, among other things, the basis for the corporeal works of mercy. Do we view these as another list, or as a life-giving guide for how we can encounter God?
All throughout Lent, we will be hearing readings like the ones we see today. As we go through these readings, examine our consciences with guides such as the Ten Commandments, and consider the ways in which we have fallen short of the mark, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. Today’s Psalm is a helpful corrective for this problem. The response we say today is a reminder that the precepts laid out in Scripture are not ends unto themselves, but guides to lead us deeper into the spiritual life, and the fullness of life with God.