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 and containing 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. “You have obtained this declaration from Yahweh.” And the declaration is that he will be their God only as long as they “follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his customs, and listen to his voice”. It is a mutually binding contract. He will be their God on condition that they observe his laws and customs with all their heart and soul. If they do that, they will stand out among all peoples as a people consecrated to their God and outstanding in their virtue.

However, 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 in particular shows 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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