It is a sobering fact that Christianity has always carried within itself a burden. It is never enough for the Christian to say “Lord, Lord” and do nothing. Rituals have always been accepted (Jesus himself performed a ritual at the Last Supper) but the picture of that same Jesus nailed to a Cross and offering his all to the Father gives a meaning to that ritual which still rings true today. “The actions speak louder than the words”.
It is a bit of a surprise, therefore, that the words of our Mandorla theme for 2020 give the lie to any illusion that such an active interpretation of religion is entirely new or unique to Christianity. Our Hebrew prophet Micah lived about eight hundred years before Christ and “with burning eloquence he attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets” (The New American Bible). …and he was not the only one. Most of the prophets that grace the Bible invariably say something similar. What a challenge they present to our comfortable way of life, which can easily delude us to think that we can get away with caring only for ourselves and our intimate enclave and ignore “the cry of the poor.” Jesus commands us to do otherwise.
One of the challenges of Christianity is that its moral code is based on positive laws. Negative laws, like the Ten Commandments, can easily be chalked off at the end of the day: I am so good, I didn’t murder anyone or blaspheme or…. A positive law is much harder. Have we ever “loved our neighbour” as much as we should? Giving to the poor or lending a helping hand to the down-and-out have no boundaries. They are positive laws and limitless.
Good old Micah had the right idea. Read the two verses that precede our quote: when you do, our verse that follows makes imminent sense. St Paul declared something similar: “If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” How can we express the grandeur of the triple challenge: DO justice, LOVE kindness and WALK humbly? AMEN.