On this Monday of the first week of Lent we encounter the “shall nots”, the “did nots”, and the “dids” of Christian life. All of them centered around the all encompassing yet nuanced command to love our neighbors.
The first reading is from the Book of Leviticus’ section on the holiness code. It describes the “thou shall not” and then lists behaviors that are against one’s neighbors. The list includes the expected thou shall not steal, slander, gossip nor cheat, but also includes this: “nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.”
I would hope we would all respond with at least a call to 9-1-1 in response to a house fire, a cry for help, an accident on the highway, and do whatever was within our power to help. That is something for which we are equipped. We all have mobile phones. We know to dial 9-1-1. There is an emergency response system ready to come to those who need rescue.
But lives are also at stake among the gospel’s description of our neighbors: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. But there is no 9-1-1 call to make. There is nothing on our speed dial and many places do not have a response system ready to come to those in need. It is more complicated. It is easier to “did not” than “do”. But it is ours to do in some measure.
It is a measure of holiness recognized in this life and the life to come.