Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time (August 27, 2018): Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Thứ Hai, 27-08-2018 | 14:49:58

Today’s Readings:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3a,14-17
Ps 96:10-13
Matthew 23:23-26

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

Good News Reflection: Judgment with mercy and fidelity

While scolding the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus names “the weightier things of the law.” Then as now, all laws, rules and regulations fall into a hierarchy of importance. In the time of these Pharisees, the less important rules included how to pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and how to clean the sacred cups and dishes. Yet they adhered to these minor regulations much more religiously than to the higher laws (the moral laws) regarding how to treat people.

Today, whenever we hurt people while religiously adhering to whatever is “our policy” or “we’ve always done it that way” or “the proper way to perform rituals”, we are no better than the Pharisees, and Jesus says woe to us! The official teachings of the Church tell us that the application of norms, rules, and policies — even Canon Law itself — must never interfere with a person’s salvation.

Jesus said that we need to purify ourselves whenever our efforts to obey the lesser laws make us neglect the highest law, which is the Law of Love (“Love one another as I have loved you”).

We slip into Pharisee-mode when we forget that the rules don’t all weigh the same or by being more afraid of breaking the law than of breaking someone’s spirit. It’s good and right that we desire to obey all the teachings of the Church and that we want others to obey them too, but we need to remember that Jesus listed three laws as the most important: judgment, mercy, and fidelity. It’s interesting why he would list these together: To be faithful (have fidelity) to God, we cannot pass judgment without mercy.

The right to make a judgment does not give us the right to be the judge. What if we know that the lady in front of us in the Communion line is divorced and remarried outside the Church? We can rightly judge that marital relations outside of a valid (i.e., sacramental) marriage is a sin. We can recall the Church law that says her ongoing sin makes her unworthy to receive the Eucharist.

However, we don’t have all the facts. What if she wants an annulment from her first marriage but she’s been persecuted for it and now she’s afraid to proceed? Or what if she’s merely ignorant of the value of getting an annulment? Would Jesus condemn her and refuse to give himself to her?

If we take on Christ’s role as judge, as if we know what’s in the hearts of those who are not obeying the rules, we place ourselves under God’s condemnation. He’s not looking at how well we enforce every rule; he’s looking at how well we love, because love is what evangelizes, not legalism. When we give love, we give them Jesus, who is compassionate and full of mercy, which can inspire them to understand and embrace the teachings of the Church.

Judgment, mercy, and fidelity. They all work together to make a difference in our souls.

Today’s Prayer:

Forgive us, Lord, for worrying about appearances and for not going deeper into all the Words You give us. Give us true awareness of the need for mercy and love that exists in the world. Amen.

© 2018 by Terry A. Modica

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