Reflection for Monday, March 7, 2022: 1st Week of Lent.

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Morse, Edward
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|We begin this first week of Lent with very challenging readings to show us our obligations in following the Lord and to remind us of our need for mercy.    |The first reading from Leviticus admonishes us to live within parameters of holiness. "Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy."  We are being called to imitate God.  What does that mean?  The text provides several examples. Live in truthfulness, not just avoiding lies but also actively supporting neighbors facing challenge.  Respect for property and contract rights matters, too.  Pay what you owe, and do it promptly. Avoid callous disregard and cruelty toward those with weaknesses you do not have to bear.  Each of these examples ends with "I am the Lord".  An unstated implication comes to mind: "and you are not." |Justice occupies the core of holy living, tying these examples together.  Just judgments require the application of law (which ideally reflects a framework for true and right living) according to the relevant facts (which reflects the true and undistorted state of affairs).  Justice delivers to each one what is due instead of satisfying competing desires from others. "You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.  Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly."  (See also Exodus 23:3: "You shall not favor the poor in a lawsuit.")  Avoiding corrupt favors to the strong or rich seems obvious, but a command not to favor the weak or poor emphasizes concerns about more subtle dispositions of the heart. Sympathy that is quite appropriate in the right context can cloud our judgment and distort justice.  Be wary of passions, including anger and hate, which do the same.  Correct and reprove when you must, but then move on with a disposition toward loving. Don't hold a grudge, which effectively continues judgment accompanied by contempt and unforgiveness.  Assess the situation rightly, but then move forward with love, empathy, and generosity in full view.|We should take great comfort from knowing that we are imitating the Lord in doing such things. Aren't you glad to know that correction should lead to restoration of a loving relationship? |Today's gospel presents the final judgment.  All people must face the Lord, whose decisions are free from partiality and made with full and accurate knowledge. The Lord accords to the sheep a status of righteousness, but they seem perplexed by this decision, just as the goats seemed perplexed by their status of condemnation.  When the sheep stood before the holy and spotless One, is it possible that they recognized a lifetime of shortcomings in this requirement for imitating God?  They received grace and mercy; their sins were forgiven and their righteous deeds that reflected charity and mercy toward others were rewarded.  As for the goats, is it possible that they were so self-satisfied that they could not grasp their own need for grace and mercy?  Did that condition somehow contribute to the absence of charity during their lifetime? |It is difficult to assess these mysteries buried deeply within the final judgment.  Certainty is hard to come by, as we are not the final judges!  But caution is in order if we are to avoid the fate of the goats.  We should consider as best we can how to imitate the sheep.  When judgment is necessary, we must remain cognizant of our limitations, including our imperfect knowledge and subtle work of extraneous forces upon us.  Let us ask the Lord to temper our judgment with wisdom and charity for all.  And let us also ask the Lord to help us imitate the sheep, not only in their good works but also in a disposition of humility that recognizes our need for mercy – a need which we share with all of our fellow creatures. |Thanks be to God, who offers that mercy to us through his Son.  Amen.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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