11 March 2019
Today we welcome a new writer, Cassilda Lim, to the team.
Cassilda was attracted to the Catholic faith from a young age, which she attributes to the Canossian sisters where she received her primary and secondary education. Baptised at 12, she had a deep and personal encounter of God several years later. This completely changed the trajectory of her life, which included two overseas studying stints in Christian leadership and theology, and a subsequent career change to a full time church worker. Her friends know her as a nerd who enjoys reading and writing. Her passion is to share the word of God and to help others recognise the life giving treasures that are held within the promises of scripture.
When she’s not working, Cassilda likes cooking and feeding her husband and friends.
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.
‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”
‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
But love your neighbour as yourself
I often hurry into the season of Lent, bent on setting my heart and mind to practice some form of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The priest would be preaching during Ash Wednesday mass and my mind would often be distracted by the myriad of options before me. “Maybe I should fast from Netflix and spend that time in prayer and reflection, but boy, that will be a tough one!” Or “Maybe I should stick to the traditional route of fasting from meals and spending time in the adoration room before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” More often than not, I veer towards spiritual practices and disciplines that I believe are designed to slow me down and refocus my attention on renewing and deepening my relationship with God. Lent, therefore, can often become a time of withdrawal and personal reflection.
While all the various spiritual disciplines are good to reorientate my heart and soul, the Scripture readings today jarred me out of my little spiritual bubble and personal enclave that I can sometimes consciously (or consciously) hedge for myself during this liturgical season.
We are told, quite plainly and unequivocally, that our relationship with, and love for God, cannot be viewed apart from our relationship with, and love for people. It is not just about God and me. It is also about others and me. Lev 19 is a series of laws and commandments. The opening verse sets the foundation of the subsequent commands, “Be holy because I the Lord your God, am holy.” Verses 11-18 then list down social and ethical expectations, with the refrain that occurs after every two verses, “I am the Lord” (v12, 14, 16, 18). Therefore we are commanded not to steal, lie, deceive, exploit, manipulate, show favoritism, apathy or be vengeful towards others because we claim to believe and worship the Lord.
The climax of these series of laws takes place in Lev 19:18b as a positive command, “Love your neigbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” The Hebrew word for love is this instance is ’ahabh, which carries an emotional, even romantic connotation. Here, scripture suggests that it is not simply about engaging in dutiful ethical behavior. We must also feel for our neighbour, allow our hearts to be moved by his or her plight, and only then can we truly love people as we love ourselves.
Similarly, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus equates godliness as offering practical acts of love and standing in solidarity with the stranger, the poor, and those considered least in society. It is sobering that those whom Jesus chastised had no trouble acknowledging him as “Lord” (Matt 31:44), yet they had failed to grasp the truth that God’s heart is always with the poor, the disadvantaged and those in need.
And so, as this season of Lent gets under way, and we focus once again on renewing our relationship with God, may we remember that the call to holiness cannot be understood apart from our relationship with others. We are called to love God, and to love others as ourselves. This is the summation and heart of our Christian faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassilda Lim)
Prayer: Help us Lord, to recognise you in others, especially those whom we find difficult to love. Grant us a tender and brave heart so that we will move to act with mercy, justice and compassion.
Thanksgiving: We thank you that you first loved us, so that we might love others.