Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 7:6-11
v. 6 You are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

For the first week and a half of Lent we read from the book of Deuteronomy, the last book of the Torah, which is composed largely of three long speeches by Moses to the people prior to their entrance to the promised land (an entrance that he did not make with them). The section that this series of readings comes from reads something like a sermon urging the Israelites to adhere to the commandments in the light of the goodness and generosity which God has shown to them.

A primal part of Israel's faith was its believe in its own "chosenness." Out of all the nations God has chosen them to follow him and bear witness to him. The Bible also gives witness to a struggle in Israel whether or not this chosenness also meant that God loved only Israel and that Israel's needs (for instance, for land) trumped the needs of all other peoples. To put it a bit too simplistically, the historical books of the Old Testament argue for this latter understanding and the prophetic books argue against it.

Part of living more deeply into our baptism (Lent's principal project) is coming to grips with the astounding good news of our own chosenness by God, not as a matter of our own deserving but simply of God's will. Each one of us, in our understanding, is God's treasured possession. This is what we mean by the word "grace," by which alone, St. Paul teaches us, we are saved.

Like the Israeites before us, we can struggle with whether or not this is meant for us exclusively or not. We can do this on an individual level or a corporate one (i.e., Christians are better than everyone else). But the Bible is clear in the end that this exclusiveness is a sin. Even when Jesus seems to sound exclusive ("I am the way, the truth and the life"), he also says "I have other sheep."

Spend some time to day reflecting on and rejoicing in your chosenness. But then take it a step further and reflect on and rejoice in your neighbor's as well.

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