A Reading from the Gospel According to Luke (11:42-46)
The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
Opening Prayer: May your grace, O, Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
It is a natural desire to be honored by our peers. However, Jesus forcefully reminds us that our lives should be lived in such a way as to honor God and honor others. Even our good works are to be done for the honor of God. As Jesus says at the start of the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”.
Many factors condition the choices we make throughout life—the geographical and sociopolitical environment where we are born and raised, the emotional and spiritual state of our parents, the educational opportunities available to us, and many others. God is fully aware of all these things. And yet, Jesus continually invites us to take responsibility for our lives by choosing freely how we will relate to ourselves, to others, and to God. His Gospel continues to shine like a beacon, illuminating a path of living in which we see ourselves as called into friendship with God and called to build up God’s Kingdom–not our own personal kingdoms–in the world around us. Somehow, God’s invitation reaches each person—where the Church is strong, it resounds clearly and attractively; where the Church is weak or has not yet been reached, it may barely resound at all. But God loves us too much not to give each of us multiple opportunities to choose and follow along the path of life, or not.
How easy it can be to observe the minute requirements of the law and forget its spirit! Jesus insists that the highest obligation we all have is love, and we all know that observing the rules with a spirit of love makes a big difference. Let us ask for the vision and the openness to observe the whole law, letter and spirit.
Jesus had many interactions with the Pharisees—conversations, meals, and meetings in the synagogue. The Pharisees had heard his parables. They had witnessed his miracles and exorcisms. The Lord smiled and reached out to them patiently and gently. But most of them still refused to hear him, refused to welcome his message and his mercy. Jesus loved them too much to give up on them. And so, he changed his tone. Here he tries to shake them up and wake them up. He didn’t lose his temper. He didn’t wish for their condemnation. He was reaching out to them still, urgently, and eloquently, trying to break through their self-satisfied hypocrisy so that his redeeming mercy could renew their hearts and minds.
Clearly, Jesus was upset with the Pharisees—the most educated and influential members of the Jewish people, and yet the most resistant to his message of salvation. But Jesus didn’t take his dissatisfaction underground. He didn’t attack the Pharisees behind their backs. He spoke the truth to them directly, lovingly, and consistently. Resorting to harsh and dramatic language, confliction language surely wasn’t comfortable for the Lord. He would have preferred to be able to reason with them calmly. But he tried that and it didn’t work. Here is a lesson for us. When we find ourselves criticizing other people, we should guard against doing so in a destructive way. For a Christian, criticism must always be constructive, ordered towards repentance and growth. This means we can never say something about someone when they are not present that we wouldn’t say about them if they were present. It never builds up trust and brotherhood, whether in family, in the Church, at work, or in society at large. Every human being, even those like the Pharisees, is created in God’s image and likeness and was redeemed by Christ’s precious blood. And so we can never glorify God and promote his Kingdom by disdaining the natural honor and dignity of our fellow human beings, however far they may have fallen from grace.
Closing Prayer: Jesus, encourage in us a consistency in life between what we say and what we do, between who we are and who we present ourselves to be. Help us to recognize when we do not live, as we know we should, when we follow the tides of the times, when we disobey our own conscience. Through prayer help us to bring the dead side of ourselves to life. Jesus, help us to live and loves life to it’s fullest for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters.
Action of the Day: ‘Justice and the love of God’ are what matter. O, Lord, help us, we beg, to ease the burdens of others and be compassionate to those who truly need our love and understanding.