Saturday of Week 1 of Lent – First Reading

Commentary on Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Today’s reading comes from the last part of the Book of Deuteronomy, which is also the last of the five books forming the Pentateuch. It contains the covenant laws by which the lives of observant Jews were guided.

Moses reminds the people of the solemn agreement that has been made between God and them:

Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement…

And the declaration is that he will be their God and they are to:

…walk in his ways…keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances…and to obey him.

It is a mutually binding contract. However, it does not mean that if the people fail, they will be abandoned by God. In fact the opposite is true: their subsequent back-sliding highlights the fidelity of God!

This is also evident everywhere in the New Testament and also in our liturgy. The Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation says:

Though time and again we have broken your covenant,
You have bound the human family to yourself
through Jesus Christ our redeemer
with a bond so tight that it can never be undone.

The reading has to be read in the later context of the Gospel, which spells out more clearly just what are the commandments and statutes that really count. The emphasis in the Law of the Old Testament was very much on external observance of rules and regulations. The emphasis in the Gospel is very much on the interior attitude and on mutual relationships between God, other people and oneself. Today’s Gospel passage on loving even one’s enemies shows, in particular, how far God’s commands are to be observed.

Nevertheless, the basic message stands: he is our God and we are to walk in his ways and to listen to his voice. That is the covenant that has been made between God and his people.

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