Monday of the First Week of Lent

Lectionary: 224

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy."


As I understand, the United States Army has documented proof that competent chaplains make a difference. It matters little if they are Catholic or Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or Native American, male or female, their presence makes a difference to their soldiers. Units of warriors in combat, at base, or on leave, are less likely to commit crimes or atrocities because their morale is strong. 

Chaplains represent a holy presence among warriors, regardless of personal traits, so long as they act with integrity. 

I have heard the same story among Knights of Columbus. Some councils, in pursuit of worthy goals, have wandered from the mission of the Knights when they adopted means that could not be justified by the ends. A priest- or deacon-chaplain who prays with his council or fourth-degree assembly probably doesn't need to run down wrongdoing; his presence guides the group in the Spirit of God. 

Chaplains represent the presence of God in the military, among the police, in schools, prisons and jails, in paid and volunteer occupations, provided they demonstrate an integrity befitting their calling. That is, they reflect that command of God, "Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy."

However, in today's first reading from the Book of Leviticus, the command to be holy is not given to individuals; it is given to "the whole assembly." As important as the clergy is to its congregation, the mission of holiness belongs to the Church. 

And, for better or worse, the chaplain/clergy sometimes represents no more than the integrity of the Church. A racist congregation will produce racist leadership, and might despise or reject any other leadership. An alcoholic church has often generated and supported a seriously compromised minister. Sometimes, we get the leadership we deserve rather than the one we need. 

Lent challenges us to consider our ways. Our readings this morning recall the Ten Commandments, reflecting on the injunctions against theft, dishonesty and hatred. We sometimes think of them as commandments given to everyone but they are demanded of God's Elect. We will be judged differently; Lent prepares us for that 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.