So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.
See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.
The book of Deuteronomy is a compilation of the laws and regulations that God gave Moses just before his death, as the people of Israel were about to finalise their pilgrimage through the desert and enter the Promised Land.
These ordinances organize the Law of the future land in regards to community, to each other and to God, as if to say that these three dimensions of life are not divisible from each other. It focuses on the land they are soon going to receive and occupy, keeping a tension between present and future, between the ‘now’ and the expectation.
For us Christians, we can read this passage in an eschatological perspective. ‘Israel’ are all those who have become the People of God through Baptism. Like them, we are pilgrims now in the desert of this first mortal life, until we reach the promised land of heaven, and our destiny is fulfilled. During this season of Lent we meditate on this pilgrimage through the desert of our life that culminates in Easter.
For our journey, Christ, the new Moses, has revealed to us the fulfilment of the Law and has set a new paradigm of interpretation of the Law which again looks towards the community, towards each other and towards God as revealed in Jesus, in his life, passion, death and resurrection: no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
Only in God we have our being, as individuals as well as a community. God sustains our past, present and future in a continuous act of self-giving. We shouldn’t see our present life as something static, but as a becoming, a progression that goes beyond death into the arrival to the Promised Land, “for here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14).
Yet, this is not a journey of self-disregard, on the contrary, it is a journey of building up self and community, of receiving and sharing God’s grace, of letting the Holy Spirit fill us and build us up, and of our response outpouring love towards each other – limitless growth in the Community of the Church through Word and Sacraments. This is what in Deuteronomy constitutes the ‘nation’ of the Church, being recognised as a “wise and discerning nation”, who has God “so near” to us. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)