Tuesday, August 26 ~ Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Gospel: Matthew 23:23-26
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.”
Jesus used the example of tithing to show how far the scribes and Pharisees had missed the mark. God had commanded a tithe of the first fruits of one’s labor as an expression of thanksgiving and honor for his providential care for his people (ref. Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:30). The scribes, however, went to extreme lengths to tithe on insignificant things (such as tiny plants) with great mathematical accuracy. They were very attentive to minute matters of little importance, but they neglected to care for the needy and the weak. Jesus admonished them because their hearts were not right. They were filled with pride and contempt for others. They put unnecessary burdens on others while neglecting to show charity, especially to the weak and the poor. They meticulously went through the correct motions of conventional religion while forgetting the realities.
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In light of today’s gospel, do you allow any blindspots to blur your vision of God’s kingdom and his ways? Jesus went to the heart of the matter when he called the religious leaders of his day blind Pharisees and hypocrites! The word “hypocrite” means “actor” — someone who puts on a show or a “game face” usually to draw attention to themselves, or a “public face” to appear one way on public, but in reality act very different “behind the scenes.” Jesus chastised them for neglecting the more important matters of religion, such as justice and the love of God and love of neighbor. Might we be guilty at times for falling into the same mindset? We need to remember that God places in every heart a desire and intimate yearning to personally know the One who created us in love for love. Saint Augustine, who found God only after many years of “acting” and wandering in disbelief and spiritual darkness, exclaimed in his book Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” May we learn to rest in the arms of the Lord, and to have genuine minds and hearts rooted in Christ.