The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the Lord your God.
When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the Lord; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple. (R./)
The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes. (R./)
The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just. (R./)
May the spoken words of my mouth
And the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock! (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited ou?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?" Then he will answer them, "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." And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Today's Scriptures refer to life-threatening issues of hunger and thirst, of nakedness and imprisonment. We need to examine our conscience on basic social issues, about sharing and not defrauding. The whole moral landscape of our social and economic life needs shaking up, if we are to fulfil the command in Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." How far this is from the ultra-capitalist culture of funnelling wealth upward to the priveleged few, of obscene, mainly clandestine "top-ups" for those already highly paid, while cutting medical and social helps to those less fortunate. If they were to take on the Lenten message, well-off people would undertake some taste of the hunger felt by those at the bottom of the pay-scale. By solidarity and unostentatious alms the rich can help the destitute gain self-respect; by gracious acceptance the poor can teach the proud how to be humble before God and neighbour.
Leviticus declares the deepest law of humanity to be to our common, shared status as children of God. "Love your neighbour as yourself" is a bedrockl principle. Unless this divine law is faithfully followed, then at the judgment Jesus can do nothing else but say: "I do not know you!" The final judgment simply ratifies how we have responded to the basic laws of human natur; and here we find the sublime guidance: "As often as you did it for one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me." Jesus too is bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh.
In his day, many people did not recognize God present in Jesus. He seemed too ordinary to be someone through whom God was at work in any significant way. The people of Nazareth said, 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?. Then when Jesus was crucified by the Romans this confirmed for many people that God could not have been visiting them through Jesus. How could God be present in the crucified body of a convicted criminal? Yet, we believe that God was present in Jesus throughout his life, and especially in his death, even though very few recognized Jesus as God-with-us.
At the final judgment, people will ask, 'when did we ever see you in need of our help?. God's presence was not always obvious to Jesus. contemporaries, and his presence is not always obvious to us either. It comes to us not in signs and wonders but in weakness, in the needs of others, whoever they are. He assures us that "whoever welcomes a child welcomes me." There can be a more sacred quality in our encounters with others than we realize at the time, especially in people who are weak and vulnerable.