Lent 1 - Year C
Why institute a ritual if not for the temptation to forget.
If ritual were simply something to do for its own sake, life would be rather mechanical. Ritual bridges a positive past experience with its doppelgänger temptation. Ritual is also a bridge to a future by carrying a bit of wisdom from the past along.
Here the ritual is sharing the first fruits of our living in a newly conquered land. It deals with the temptation to forget our history of enslavement. To forget is to set the stage for repetition of history, a falling back into slavery. Remembering we were slaves brings the possibility of continually evaluating our freedom.
Unfortunately ritual is rather narrowly focused. How might the israelites have ritualized their displacing people to make room for them and engage in restitution for themselves and others? Some of it is done with rules about gleaning at the end of a harvest, leaving some for the former owners of the land. But a gleaning rule doesn’t carry the same energy and power as this ritual of first-fruits.
To only remember our own displacement and return without remembering who we have displaced and wants to return, is a set-up for losing a significant grounding and a need for prophets to arise and remind everyone that injustice begun with such as small thing as forgetting all the displaced now threatens to bring a drought that will reduce the first-fruits to the point of famine and another journey to a proverbial Egypt. Forgetting not only dries us up, it dries up the very land.