Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Art: The Pharisees Question Jesus (Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus) By James Tissot
Reading 1 GAL 5:1-6
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.It is I, Paul, who am telling you
that if you have yourselves circumcised,
Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised
that he is bound to observe the entire law.
You are separated from Christ,
you who are trying to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.
For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.
Responsorial Psalm PS 119:41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48
Let your mercy come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will walk at liberty,
because I seek your precepts.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will delight in your commands,
which I love.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will lift up my hands to your commands
and meditate on your statutes.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
Alleluia HEB 4:12
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 11:37-41
After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
Commentary on Luke 11:37-41 From Living Space
Jesus continues to highlight what is central to our relationship with God. We skip over a short passage which is about various aspects of light. In short, the Christian is to be a person full of light through and through. Not like the kind of people Jesus now goes on to describe.
He had been invited to dinner by a Pharisee. Jesus apparently went straight into the dining area and reclined at the table prepared to eat. The Pharisee was quite shocked because Jesus had not first washed his hands before eating. Of course, we are strongly recommended to wash our hands before sitting down to eat. But here we are not dealing with a question of hygiene but of ritual washing. Jesus had omitted to perform a religious ritual which was laid down by the stricter Jews, although not actually part of the Law. [The rule probably had originally a hygienic purpose. By giving it a religious sanction one made sure that it was carried out. Many other obligations, some of them contained in the Mosaic Law e.g. in Leviticus, seem to be of the same kind.]
Most probably, Jesus, in the ordinary course of events, would have had no problem about performing this ritual but it is likely that here he is deliberately making a point. It allows him to draw attention to what he sees as false religion. A person’s virtue is not to be judged by his performance or non-performance of an external rite.
As Jesus tells this man in a graphic image, the Pharisees concentrate on making sure that the outside of the cup is clean while inside it is full of all kinds of depravity and corruption (like the judgmental thoughts in this man’s mind and the sinister plotting that the Pharisees in general were directing against Jesus). God is as much, if not much more, concerned about the inside as the outside.
Instead, Jesus suggests that they give alms to the poor and, when the inside is clean, there is no need to worry about the outside. Giving alms is a positive act of kindness to another person; it is an act of love and compassion. It neutralises the greed and rapacity of which he accuses them. It is not, like the washing of hands, a purely empty ritual which says little and is almost totally self-directed.
It is so easy to judge people, including our fellow-Catholics, by their observance or non-observance of certain Christian customs, which of themselves are of a non-moral nature. In the past, for instance, we might have criticised a woman for not wearing a hat in church or a priest for appearing without his Roman collar. Today, we might find ourselves scandalised because someone goes to communion having had a huge meal well within the designated one hour of fasting or even for eating meat on Friday, even though the ‘law’ does not require it. (Most of the passages in the Gospel attacking Pharisees are really directed against Pharisees in our Christian communities, not to mention the Pharisee in our own hearts.)
Elsewhere, Jesus has told us not to judge because it is very difficult for us to know what is going on within another person’s mind. (Like a former professor of mine, who as a young man, many years ago, was seen going into a shop to buy a packet of condoms. He actually wanted them to keep the rain off the spark plugs on his ancient motorbike!)
What Jesus is really emphasising here is the inner spirit and motivation. Once that is right, everything else will be taken care of.
The Pharisee was surprised by the fact that Jesus does not observe this religious norm. But in spite of their total difference, the Pharisee and Jesus have something in common: for them life is serious. The way of doing of the Pharisee was the following: every day, they dedicated eight hours to study and to the meditation of the law of God, another eight hours to work in order to be able to survive with the family and the other eight hours to rest. This serious witness of their life gives them a great popular leadership. Perhaps because of this, in spite of the fact of being totally diverse, both, Jesus and the Pharisees, understood and criticized one another, without losing the possibility to dialogue.• Luke 11, 39-41: The response of Jesus. “You Pharisees you clean the outside of the cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and, look, everything will be clean for you”.
The Pharisees observed the law literally. They only looked at the letter and because of this they were incapable to perceive the spirit of the law, the objective that the observance of the law wanted to attain in the life of the persons. For example, in the law it was written: “Love the neighbour as yourself” (Lv 19,18). And they commented: “We should love the neighbour, yes, but only the neighbour, not the others!” And from there arose the discussion around the question: “Who is my neighbour?” (Lk 10, 29) Paul the Apostle writes in his second Letter to the Corinthians: “The letter kills, the spirit gives life” (2 Co 3, 6).
In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus criticizes those who observe the letter of the law but transgress the spirit (Mt 5, 20). In order to be faithful to what God asks us it is not sufficient to observe the letter of the law. It would be the same thing as to clean the cup on the outside and to leave the inside all dirty: robbery and injustice so on. It is not sufficient not to kill, not to rob, not to commit adultery, not to swear. Only observe fully the law of God, of he who, beyond the letter, goes to the roots and pulls out from within the desires of “robbery and injustice” which can lead to murder, robbery, adultery, It is in the practice of love that the fullness of the law is attained (cf. Mt 5, 21-48).
• Does our Church today merit the accusation which Jesus addressed against the Scribes and the Pharisees? Do I deserve it?
• To respect the seriousness of life of others who think in a different way from us, can facilitate today dialogue which is so necessary and difficult. How do I practice dialogue in the family, in work and in the community?
Let your faithful love come to me, Yahweh,
true to your promise, save me!
Give me an answer to the taunts against me,
since I rely on your word. (Ps 119,41-42)
Why must we be set free from the Laws? This is because, as St Paul argued, “if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference.”
The Laws cannot justify us before God. Obedience to the Law will make us legalistic, proud and judgmental like the scribes and the Pharisees. Salvation is then no longer attributable to the grace of God and His goodness but merited by our actions. If salvation is a result of our own strength, there is no necessity for Christ to die in order to save us. At any rate, if observance of the laws is the ticket to heaven, then it would make us resentful of God in our hearts. Even if we are not, we will fall into the greatest sin, which is that of pride, and a false independence from God.
A legalistic observance of rules and rituals does not change the heart of pride and fear to a heart of freedom and love. When we are more concerned about carrying out the laws than changing lives and empowering people, we have missed the end for the means. To put greater emphasis on the laws than how they affect the lives of people is as good as idolatry, for then we make the laws our god. This was what Jesus meant when He reprimanded the Pharisees for reducing the observance of the Covenant merely to the letter of the Law rather than the spirit. They were religiously meticulous in fulfilling the customary ablutions before meals rather than the ablution of their hearts. What they needed to purify was the sinfulness in their lives, especially pride, arrogance, judgmentalism and sins against charity, namely injustice and the lack of compassion. Truly, for those of us who pride ourselves as “good” Catholics or Christians, we must examine whether we have the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. We might be religious in our Christian duties but do we have a heart of purity in love and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are not so lovable.
Conversely there are those who live under bondage of sin in the flesh, and are unable to overcome their self-indulgence. St Paul himself, being a former Pharisee and Rabbi, understood that the Law did not set him free but on the contrary caused him to sin even more. Instead of doing what the Law required, he did just the opposite. Indeed, who is not a sinner? Who can always act justly, walk humbly, love tenderly without the grace of God? Just knowing the Law without the help of grace will only serve to drive those of us who are powerless against sin, especially sins of the flesh, temptation to greed, power and pleasure, to fall into despair, like Judas. It makes us want to give up trying to be good because no matter how much we try, we fail.
Only the grace of God, His unconditional love and mercy, can help us overcome our helplessness. It is love that is the real power, not the Law. Obedience, unless given out of love for God, cannot set us free. Without love in our hearts, we will not be capable of loving freely and unconditionally. Either way, we find ourselves so wretched. Wasn’t that the same feeling of St Paul when in Romans, he exclaimed, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Rom 7:24f)
So faith in Jesus as the love of God in person, and in the mercy of God demonstrated at His death on the cross, is what sets us free to love freely and totally. St Paul puts this truth succinctly when he wrote, “what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.” True fulfillment of the Law is when we submit in faith to Christ who is the power and wisdom of God’s love, especially in His death on the cross. Indeed, laws and sin are overcome when there is love. Yes, “what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.”
It does not mean that laws are not needed. Although we are not saved by the Laws, the Church still has moral laws, disciplinary rules and rituals to help us to fulfill the one Law of love. Such laws spell out exactly the demands of charity towards God and our neighbor. So love helps us to keep the laws, since the laws are good. Love makes us give up sin. In this way, laws are not means to buy the love of God but to express one’s love for Him. They are guidelines rather than strict application without considering the peculiar circumstances that at times might require us to break the law in order to keep the spirit.
The crux of the problem is, do we truly believe that He loves us? If we have faith in His love, then we will have the power to love. But do we? Can we truly say with St Paul, that God loves each one of us individually, personally and as a community of faith unconditionally, totally and always? More often than not, we don’t. Even so called “good and active” Catholics would baulk at the suggestion that they have not truly experienced His love. Most THINK they have, but deep within them, they know that they have not. It would be too embarrassing to admit otherwise, since we are good and faithful Catholics who go to church regularly, are involved in organizations, committees, charity works, etc.
And even if we have experienced it, have we already forgotten His love and mercy, like the Galatians, and have returned to the laws again? This is pertinent to those active in Church or faithful to the requirements of the Church and the gospel. Are we serving the Church more out of duty, or a commitment that we have made, and so seek to keep it because of pride or out of love? If we are serving in love and for love, then why is it that we are so calculative with our time and resources in the organizations we are in? Why are we minimalists in the way we render our services to the Church, or any charitable organization we are involved in? When we do the minimum and become more concerned as to whether we have fulfilled the laws, then this is the same sin that caused St Paul to censure the Galatians.
How then do we renew this love? St Paul said, “Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.” Let us turn to the Holy Spirit then to renew our faith in Jesus’ love and mercy for us so that this merciful love of Christ that we experience every day will empower us to love and give more of ourselves to Him and to His people. Let me reiterate “every day” because we sin every day. But we should not be focusing on our sins but His mercy, though we should certainly reflect on them so that we will appreciate His love and mercy even more.
Let the prayer of the psalmist be ours when he prayed, “Let your mercy come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord. And I will keep your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, because I seek your precepts. And I will delight in your commands, which I love. And I will lift up my hands to your commands and meditate on your statutes. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
God isn’t mad at you. Nope! He is mad about you! You are the apple of His eye. You want to know how I know this? Here are five ways God proves it is true.
1. God never stops loving you. No matter where you’re from, where you’ve been or the mistakes you’ve made, God loves you. There is nothing that can get in the way of that. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing means nothing. God is love, and His love for you has no limit.
2. God created you for a purpose. You are “the God-created” (Acts 17:24-29, MSG), and God made you with a destiny and purpose in mind. He didn’t create you to sit and do nothing. He chose you to walk in power, freedom and victory.
God reveals His purpose through your gifts and talents. I challenge you to use your abilities to bring God glory.
3. God wants to give you an abundant life. The devil would love to destroy you, but God wants you to have an abundant life filled with His power and provision. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV).
There isn’t a single need you have that God doesn’t want to fulfill. As my dear friend Dave Martin always says, “The rest of your life is the best of your life!” Believe that God will provide all that you need, and get ready to live at another level.
4. God gave His Son as a sacrifice to cover all your sins. I love the way Romans 8:3-4 in The Message version explains what Jesus did. It says, “God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son.”
The guy in me loves the sound of that—it perfectly describes the bold and intense moment when Jesus stepped into our humanity and broke the law to rescue you and me. And He did that because He loved us.
5. God has prepared a place in heaven for you. This earth is not our home! God prepared something else for us. He prepared a place where we will be able to spend eternity with our loving and faithful Father. If you’ve ever doubted the existence of heaven, just read the entire book of Revelation.
The bottom line is this: God loves all of us, regardless of our history. And there is a huge difference between conviction and condemnation. God convicts, and that leads us to repentance, but the devil condemns, and that leads to a life of guilt.
God isn’t mad at you. He wants to spend eternity with you. Would you want to live forever with someone you were mad at? God doesn’t either.
The most valuable thing you will ever receive is God’s grace. He gave it to us so we can understand the power of being redeemed. He gave it to us so we can spend the rest of eternity—starting today—living with and enjoying Him.
Pat Schatzline co-founded Mercy Seat Ministries with his wife, Karen, in 1997. Together, they have ministered to more than 2 million people around the globe and have seen tens of thousands transformed by God’s power.
Tags: Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish inside you are filled with plunder and evil, Catholics, change the heart of pride and fear, Christians, do we have the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, gal 5:1-6, going through the motions, HEB 4:12, Lk 11:37-41, making our heart of freedom and love, October 11 2016, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 119, the bondage of sins in the flesh, You are separated from Christ ou who are trying to be justified by law