The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the Lord your God.
When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the Lord; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited ou?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?" Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Today's Scriptures focus is on issues of life and death, of hunger and thirst, of nakedness and imprisonment. They help us examine our conscience on basic issues, on sharing and not defrauding. The whole moral landscape of our social and economic life needs shaking up, if we are to fulfil the Lord's guidance in Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." How far this is from the culture of fat-cats, of clandestine "top-ups" for those alrealy highly paid, while cutting medical and social helps to those less fortunate. If they were to take on the Lenten message, wealthier people would undertake some taste of the hunger felt by those at the bottom of the economic scale. By solidarity and unostentatious alms the rich can offer the destitute an opportunity for self-respect; by gracious acceptance the poor can teach the proud how to be of humble heart before God and neighbour.
Leviticus declares the deepest laws of creation where we are reduced to our common, shared status as children of God. "Love your neighbour as yourself" remains a cardinal principle. Unless this divine law is pursued and obediently followed, then at the end of life Jesus can do nothing else but say: "I do not know you!" The final judgment simply ratifies how we have responded to the basic laws of human nature-and here we find the sublime guidance: "As often as you did it for one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me." Jesus too is bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh.
It is clear that many did not recognize God present in Jesus. In many ways Jesus seemed too ordinary to be someone through whom God was at work in any significant way. The people of Nazareth said, 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' Then when Jesus was crucified by the Romans this confirmed for many people that God could not have been visiting them through Jesus. How could God be present in the crucified body of a convicted criminal? Yet, we believe that God was present in Jesus throughout his life, and especially in his death, even though very few recognized Jesus as God-with-us. In the gospel Jesus declares that very few will recognize his presence as risen Lord either, especially his presence in the crucified, in those who are in greatest need, whether it is the need for food, drink, clothing, hospitality, health, freedom. At the end of time, people will ask, 'when did we see you. . ..' God's presence in Jesus was not always obvious to Jesus' contemporaries, and the presence of the risen Lord will not always be obvious to us either. The Lord comes to us not in signs and wonders but in weakness, in the brokenness and suffering of others whoever they are. Elsewhere in the gospel Jesus says whoever welcomes a child welcomes him. Jesus is suggesting that there is a deeper, more sacred, quality to our encounters with others than we might realize at the time, especially in our encounters with the weak and vulnerable. [MH]