If reading Deuteronomy were like crossing a river, then we would be just past mid-stream this morning. It won't help us to turn around and go back to the shore we left, because it is the same distance away from us now as is the one toward which we are heading. This has not been an easy crossing, so far. Moses' sermon to the people of Israel has been a strong and provocative challenge to them: that they reaffirm their faith in God and fidelity to Covenant as they enter into the Promised Land. Deliverance from Egypt and the sojourn in the desert is proving to be just the prelude to life for Israel as it will be lived (or rather, as it should be lived) in the land that God is giving them.
Today's readings highlight two of the most challenging aspects of the Law. In an increasingly cosmopolitan world (funny how the world is always becoming more cosmopolitan!), God's call to Israel is to NOT follow after other Gods and NOT to get embroiled and entangled in other cultures and practices that will distract them from what God intends. The great sins are a lack of commitment to the Law, indulgence in idolatry and finally a willingness to embrace the ways of the world over the ways of God. What is lacking, and seems to show up only once in a while in Moses' sermon, is a call to justice that reminds Israel that a call to submission to the Law means willingness to fall in love with God, and with God's justice: to remember the poor, the immigrant, the disenfranchised in society. It is there, yes; but felt more as an odd eddy in the current of the river that is Deuteronomy.
|The parable of Lazarus and the rich man.|
In a recent television campaign, one of the speakers on camera says succinctly and to the point of the Gospel today: "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice."
I think that from their unique perspectives on human society as they preached and taught, Moses and Jesus would both say, "Amen" to that ideal. Our task today, as always, is to remember that life in God requires of us that pursuit of justice and a willingness to turn from the distractions that wealth too often offers.