Monday of week 1 of Lent – First Reading


Commentary on Lev 19:1-2, 11-18

The general theme of the Book of Leviticus is in today’s opening sentence: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” Today’s reading comes from a section dealing with moral and religious regulations related to daily life, with obvious links to the Ten Commandments. Some of them sound somewhat strange today such as, “You will not round off your hair at the edges or trim the edges of your beard” (as presumably some of Israel’s ‘pagan’ neighbours were doing).

In today’s reading the call is clear: the measure of our holiness is that of God himself. Obviously that is not something to be even remotely achieved in our lifetime; rather, it is an ideal to be constantly aimed at as we continually try to raise our sights. But, are there are any measures, by which we can measure our progress in something so abstract as holiness?

Very simply, today’s reading says that it consists in the way we treat (or do not treat) those around us. It is perhaps worth observing that everything here is largely expressed in the negative, the things we ought not to do towards our brothers and sisters.

– no stealing or fraud

– no irreverent use of God’s name.

– no abuse of others through exploitation or robbery by paying just wages at the proper time.

– no abuse or neglect of the disabled: the blind and the dumb are mentioned.

– avoiding all forms of prejudice and bias either towards the weak or the powerful

– no passing of judgement on others beyond the bounds of justice and fairness.

– never criticise out of hatred but only out of a desire to help.

– no vengeance, no grudges.

It is quite obvious that it is not enough just not to do these things but rather positively to do the opposite in each case. And they are all finally summed up in one positive injunction: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” In the context, it is clear that ‘neighbour’ means a fellow-Jew but Jesus – as well as Paul and James in their letters – would extend its meaning to embrace every single person.

Some of the stricter Pharisees interpreted ‘loving the neighbour’ as implying that one should ‘hate the enemy’. But others came closer to Jesus’ injunction that love for neighbour should even extend to those who would want to harm us. For instance, Rabbi Nahmanides said: “One should place no limitations upon the love for the neighbour, but instead a person should love to do an abundance of good for his fellow being as he does for himself.”

It is clear from this and the later teaching of Jesus that the ‘neighbour’ included every single person and not just those close to us by place, nationality, race, religion, class or gender… but even those who would want to harm us. And, as today’s Gospel makes clear, the neighbour is particularly to be identified with any person who is in need of any kind.

Later, Jesus would push the command even further when he told us to love each other not just as much as we love ourselves but to the degree that he loved us – by ‘emptying’ himself and giving his life for every single one of us.

As I reflect on this passage during Lent, I may ask: Where do I stand in my relationships with my friends, my ‘enemies’ or the needy in my community?

Comments Off on Monday of week 1 of Lent – First Reading


Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2017 Sacred Space :: www.sacredspace.ie :: All rights reserved.