“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yesterday’s first reading is taken from the book of Leviticus (19:1-2, 11-18).  This third book of the Torah has the reputation of being very dry and uninteresting to the modern reader.  It is true that it can be a tough go, what with all its arcane laws and lists.  But, anyone opening the Bible to this book will certainly appreciate certain sections of the work, like the passage in question.

It starts out as if we are to get a reiteration of the Ten Commandments from the previous book of Exodus (20:1-17).  But then we find that we get more commands, or at least more specific ways on how to live the Ten Commandments.  Per the title of this post, note how it starts and ends.  We are reminded of Jesus’ response to the scholar of the law who tested Him:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. (Mt 22:37-40)

See how this encompasses all other divine commandments not only in the structure of this Leviticus passage but also theologically?  Be holy as God is holy (which we can approach only by total devotion to Him) and in so doing we, by extension, love our neighbor as ourselves.  How do we do this?  We are given important reminders: do not steal or lie or speak falsely or defraud or judge dishonestly or show partiality or slander or hate.  It makes for an excellent examination of conscience.

If we truly honor God and remember to see Christ in every person (Mt 25:40) it will make doing the right thing for our fellow men that much easier.  And the reward is heavenly.

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