Monday of the First Week in Lent
(Leviticus 19:1-2.11-18; Matthew 25:31-46)
The Scripture readings today strike a balance between negative and positive actions. Leviticus emphasizes the former with a list of “You shall not(s).” The gospel, on the other hand, accentuates the positive. It predicts Jesus reminding the nations at the end of time that they are being judged on what they did for the little people of the world. If they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned, they will be judged worthy of salvation.
We might ask which is more important, to avoid doing what is wrong or to do what is right? In medicine, at least, an answer to this question seems to emerge. The Hippocratic Oath, which physicians have taken for centuries, clearly sides with the need to avoid evil. After promising to offer dietetic measures to heal the sick, budding physicians swear not to do a series of evils: hasten death, induce abortion, and molest patients or householders whom they visit.
It is fair to conclude that avoiding harm is essential but insufficient. If love is the supreme virtue, it entails that we act positively toward others. If we cannot do anything directly to support them, then we should at least pray that their needs be met. During Lent we redouble efforts to examine our lives daily with two questions in mind. We ask ourselves, “What evil have I done today?” and “What good have I failed to do?”