Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts. (1Thessalonians 2:4)
Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23-24)
God of, you call your people to be concerned about the weightier things of your law: justice, compassion and faithfulness. Cleanse our hearts that we may do justice. Touch our minds that we may understand compassion and be merciful. Support our trust that we may remain faithful to Jesus, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(From Day by Ordinary Day with Matthew, vol. 2, Mark G. Boyer, Alba House, 1997, p. 267.)
God knows us so well. Jesus sees through the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and God sees us though and through. Even though Jesus’ words are harsh and unyielding, if the scribes or Pharisees had had a change of heart, he would have forgiven them without qualification right then and there. His love, rooted in the will of his Father, was his ideal which trumped righteous anger. And God does the same for us.
When I was a teacher (centuries ago!) in Guam, one of my favorite eighth grade students was Brad. He was not a bad kid, but he got into more than his share of scrapes being himself – antsy, high-spirited and without sufficient boundaries to just say no when needed. I did my best to keep him reined in and not distracting his classmates. When he needed correction I supplied it. But when he came back, shamefaced and repentant, I did my best to not laugh it off. Brad truly wanted to be good, he just couldn’t help himself. After 30 years he still holds a special place in my heart.
God is interested in the heart. And Jesus knows that the actions of the Pharisees do not match what is in their hearts. Scrupulous adherence to rules – religious or societal – do not necessarily reflect purity of intention. God wants us to harmonize our insides and our outsides. Justice, mercy, and fidelity are virtues welcomed by God. These virtues, not “lesser matters”, should be paramount, guiding our lives. These guides will allow what St. Augustine counseled: “Love and do what you will”.
The debate over healthcare reform is full of rancor, obtuse language and misstatements. Do justice, mercy and fidelity guide our opinions and our discussions? Check out the new USCCB website for the Catholic Bishops’ stance. “Applying our experience and principles to the choices before the nation, our bishops’ conference strongly supports comprehensive reform that will ensure a decent level of health care for all without regard to their ability to pay.” http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/
In addition, Sojourners magazine has assembled resources for people of faith who want to participate in the debate. The site is at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.display&item=HC09-main. It includes resources about how to get active in the debate, moral issues involved, ways to check the facts on claims made by various groups, new coverage about people of faith and their activities on the debate, and ways to take action.