When I think about the readings for today, I find a common theme running through them regarding the urgency of the call for me to pay attention to my responsibilities to myself and to my community rather than gratify my ego-driven desires. The context of the lives of the agrarian Hebrew people was far harsher than our own, and the language reflects a time in which personal survival must not be taken for granted. The average life expectancy in the Roman Empire was 35 and most children did not live to adulthood. Infectious diseases, drought, famine, as well as warfare and tribal conflict were common. So the deuteronomic laws evolved as stern mandates about health and hygiene as well as the maintenance of a just and civil society because the survival of the Hebrew people was at stake. Our survival is also at stake.
God wants us to thrive; and we ultimately do ourselves harm when we ignore these laws, but we are so often attracted to pleasure instead. In the context of our far easier lifestyle, who wants to live healthfully and fulfill communal responsibilities when we can stay home cocooning and indulging ourselves? Sadly, mainstays of self-absorption, and self-indulgence cannot sustain us – our health, jobs and family relationships would suffer, and our society would collapse. The Gospel reading calls us to follow Jesus, to take care of ourselves and others and to fulfill our responsibilities, even though this is often difficult, and at times odious. Through these choices over time we will find out who we really are and we will sustain our world. By turning to what is right and good, we will gain entrance into the kingdom of God because we co-create the kingdom of God right here, and we will know His love.
Nancy C. Sharts-Hopko
M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing