Laws! They’re all around us. Social norms, parental rules, rules of the road, laws of nature, local ordinances, civil laws and criminal laws at all levels–all sorts of learned and externally-created rules to live by. Some are meant to keep us safe (Remember being told not to touch the top of the stove because it was hot?), and others are for the good of the whole. The Old Testament had lots of laws, too. There are the Ten Commandments, of course, and over 600 other rules mentioned in the Pentateuch as means of achieving salvation. Leviticus reminds us of some of these. In the Gospel reading, Matthew describes the Judgment Day: The righteous shall go to the Lord’s right, and the accursed to His left; those on the left destined to eternal punishment, those on the right to eternal life. Is keeping within all the secular and religious laws– even the Ten Commandments–enough to put us on the right instead of the left on that final day? No, there’s more to it than that.
On February 16, our communion anthem was set to the text of Psalm 119:33: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes: and I shall keep it unto the end.” The “way of thy statutes” is the key. It’s a mindset that involves thinking of the benefit and comfort of others before oneself. It means loving your neighbor as yourself. In Matthew 22:36-40, when asked what was the greatest of all the laws, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (This passage, called the Summary of the Law, was a standard part of the Holy Communion liturgy in the 1928 Prayer Book and is still in Rite 1 of the modern Prayer Book.)
As we discipline ourselves throughout this Lenten season, achieving that other-centric mindset is a good goal.
Links to the appointed readings for today: