Father David's Reflection for First Monday of Lent
The Responsorial Psalm is a key to the readings: "Your words, Lord, are spirit and life" (John 6:63 and
Leviticus 19: 1-18 gives the guiding principle of all morality and the goal of discipleship: "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." This is the law of all laws, and these words are truly "spirit and life." They give us a goal to aim at that is inspiring. And it is warm and personal, because the goal is to be like a person (three Persons, actually!) whom we love. As disciples (students) we should compare every particular commandment with this guiding principle and goal, seeing what each commandment teaches us about the person of God and how the commandment is clarified by what we know of God's mind and heart.
Matthew 25:31-46 shows us people being condemned for failing to do things that we were never specifically commanded to do under pain of sin. Most of us alive today were never taught that we had to make sure we fed the hungry and clothed the naked. We were taught these were good, Christian things to do - works of mercy- but they were not on the "checklist" of sins we were given to help us examine our lives and evaluate our behavior. Priests do not hear people saying in Confession, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned: I have not clothed the naked or visited anyone in prison since my last Confession."
But Jesus says these are the acts we will be judged on.
There is a new spirit in the Church: a spirit inspired more by the Gospels than by laws; more by the words of Jesus than by the legalistic precision of today's "teachers of the law" (see Luke 5:17, 7:30, 11: 45-52, 14:3; 1Timothy 1: 5-7). It is a spirit that looks to the general, inspiring principles that Jesus taught - principles that call us to lift up our eyes and look toward the goal of being "h oly, as the Lord, our God, is holy" instead of narrowing our focus down to the nitty-gritty of just what is and is not a "sin."
John Paul II is an example of this. He wrote "Jesus' way of acting and his words, his deeds and his precepts constitute the moral rule of Christian life" (Splendor of Truth #20). This means that to live an authentically "moral" life we have to know Jesus, know his mind and heart, keep studying his words and example, his words of "spirit and life." We need to be his disciples.
Initiative: Be a disciple: Study Christ. Read and reflect on the words of Jesus. Set aside a time for this. Be realistic: begin with just five minutes a day. But begin.