Homily for March 14, Monday of the I week of Lent
An important part of our Lenten journey is spiritual introspection, in order to renew our awareness of our own sinfulness and our need for the forgiveness and redemption won for us by Christ. The goal is not to put ourselves down or to focus exclusively on God’s justice and righteous anger. We think about our sinfulness and the punishment due for sin because we are called to something much better: to receive the inheritance of children of God and enter joyfully into the heavenly kingdom.
Readings like those we have today are intended to be motivational, deterring us from sin and helping us to appreciate the tremendous gift of redemption all the more. They are also instructive, reminding us of the commandments and of the criteria that Jesus will use on judgment day.
The first reading focuses mostly (but not exclusively) on negative commandments: it tells us what kind of actions to avoid. There’s nothing very surprising; it’s mostly just specific applications of some of the Ten Commandments – not taking the Lord’s name in vain, not lying or stealing or indulging in physical violence or hatred. However, it ends with a more positive command: “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus takes this last teaching and explains it more in the Gospel. It is not enough on judgment day if we just “didn’t hurt anybody.” God is expecting us to be a positive force for good in the world. By analogy, we can think of the world as a workshop or a factory. it’s not enough for the workers not to break the equipment or get in the way of the other workers; if they want to keep their job and be paid, they have to be productive. The world is God’s workshop where the product He expects is love and charity, shown by our actions and attitude towards the people around us, especially the least fortunate.
When it comes to practical ways of being loving and charitable, the Lord leaves little to our imagination. He lists very concrete examples of how we can meet the needs of those around us. We can feed the hungry, visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, and so forth. These acts – part of the list known as the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – are not optional. We are all called to do them, in varying degrees, according to our circumstances and abilities.
May God grant us all to live more and more in agreement with the selfless ideals that He sets before us, so that on judgment day, we will hear the Lord say, “come, you who are blessed by My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”