One word I rather like, use too frequently, and realize that it's now inappropriate for use is the word queer. Growing up in an Irish cultural milieu, the word queer did not have the connotation of anything involving sexuality. Rather, it indicated that something was very peculiar. So to hear Tom Byrne, a great flute and whistle player from Cleveland, say, "Ryan, that was a queer tune you played" said nothing of its sexual identity and spoke, usually, to the fact that I had just played something very strange before him. Given the fashion trends of some of my students, I sometimes fail to catch myself before blurting out, at seeing hideous plaid pants, "Those are the queerest pants I've ever seen!"
Today's first reading and Gospel are linked by what I would regard as how queer, or peculiar, Christianity truly is. Given how charged that word is I suspect it better to say how peculiar it is. In the first reading, Moses addresses the gathered people:
This day the LORD, your God,For Moses, being the LORD's people is not simply paying lip-service to statutes or laws. It is a way of being a people, a style of being an assembly that stands out from other groups. This doesn't mean that God doesn't love other people, or neglects them, or has no regard for them. It means that, of all the world's people, this gathering is called in a peculiar way. It is a way that stands out from the ways and styles of other peoples, a manner that would appear....well, queer.
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you
Turn, then, to the Gospel. Matthew recounts Jesus' words: