The Law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul.
According to Jewish tradition, there are 613 commandments contained in the Law of Moses, or the first five books of the Bible. The Babylonian Talmud counts 365 negative commandments, or one for each day of the year, and 248 positive commandments, or one for each (classical) bone and organ in the body.
Today’s reading from Leviticus begins with a list of positive and negative commandments: you shall not steal (twice), you shall not lie, you shall not harm people with disabilities (paraphrased), you shall not render unjust judgments. The reading ends with the summation of the whole law, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Putting the idea of “loving your neighbor as yourself” into action, today’s Gospel is the familiar, if frightening, story of Christ’s judgment of the world. Those who have followed Christ’s exhortation to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and welcome the stranger are inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who have not, are sent away. Jesus reminds us that, “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.”
As we begin this season of Lent, I wonder what we can do to better follow Christ’s call to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick right in our own neighborhood. I was struck a few weeks ago by the situation that occurred in McPherson Square, our neighbors to the northeast. According to the Washington Post, around 75 people lived in the McPherson Square encampment prior to the eviction by NPS. Unfortunately, despite enough funding to house the chronically unhoused in DC, the city does not have enough staff to make it happen. What can we, as a church, do to support our neighbors?
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: