26 February 2007

Righteous Verbs for Jesus

1st Week of Lent (M): Lev 19.1-2, 11-18 and Matthew 25.31-46
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX


First, “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” Being holy has something to do with being just; that is, to be like God—holy—one must also be righteous: in right-relationship with God, neighbor, and self. Being a just person and acting justly means to be and act out of your lived, daily “bumping into” God. What God tells Moses to tell us about righteousness is starkly simple: love your God and your neighbor as you love yourself. And He repeats: “I am the Lord.” Here is a seal on the instruction, a stamp of authority and authentication so that we know that this is an original promise of friendship, the real-deal telling of how our Father’s creation is ordered and how we are to fit into it so that we will prosper in His wisdom. If you will be holy, you will be just. If you will be just, you will love: love God and love neighbor as you love yourself. As you walk among the rocks and bones of Lent, ask yourself: how do I love myself? Is this how I am to love God and neighbor? Pray then: Make me holy as you are holy, Lord!

Second, “your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” What our Father teaches us about the order of His creation and our right-relationship with Him and what He has made is Life; that is, what we call “life” is an ordered creation—not an accident, not the byproducts of a random confluence of fortuitous events. We are made, crafted and set among the beauty of God’s handiwork. His Word—Wisdom, Christ, pure, refreshing—from nothing, from no-thing-at-all made Everything there is: arrayed, synched, choreographed, scored and meticulously performed. His creation is decreed, precepted, commanded, ordinanced, and enduring; perfect for the animating fire of the Spirit. And that Spirit, pure and refreshing, brings us wisdom, rejoicing, enlightenment, justice, truth. Ask yourself: how do I understand myself as someone made, someone crafted for a purpose? How do I understand myself as a body-soul fashioned by Love Himself to love as He does? Pray then: Lord, let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find peace in your order, a home with your Spirit and Life.

Finally, “sheep to my right, goats to my left.” My poet’s mind is reeling from all these nouns—Justice, Holiness, Spirit, Life, Truth—and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps God is really a nineteenth-century German philosopher! Order, Law, Decrees! No, not a German philosopher but a Jewish carpenter and so the words of Life are verbs: give, welcome, clothe, comfort, visit, feed, heal, teach, love. These verbs enact the nouns of creation, giving the stone-names their souls! We do not welcome the stranger just to welcome the stranger. We do not feed the hungry just to feed the hungry. We welcome and feed and visit and teach b/c when we do these for the least of God’s creatures—the poor—, we do them for Christ. To do anything else is to definitively exclude yourself from communion with God and the blessed forever (CCC n. 1033). To do anything else is to place yourself outside the order, the very nature of God’s creation. And you are saying: I hate myself. And God. And everyone else. That is no life at all. No spirit at all. It is Death, freely chosen, and darkness forever. Ask yourself: what are my “righteous verbs”? What am I doing this Lent to act on my Father’s command to love and to be just and to be holy as He is holy? Pray then: “Lord, I want to be among the truly righteous, show me the hungry, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned and give me your Spirit to be for them your Living Word, to serve them as you did.”


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