Use The Wide-Focus Lens
Tuesday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 23, 2016
Year II: 2Thessalonians 2:1-17; Psalm 96:10-13; Matthew 23:23-26
The Responsorial urges us to await with hope the day when: “The Lord comes to judge the earth.”
In 2Thessalonians 2:1-17 Paul is telling us not to get involved in questions that Jesus didn’t bother to answer, because they are of no importance — like when or how the end of the world is going to come — but to just “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” There is too much in Scripture that we have not yet absorbed for us to waste time speculating about matters God didn’t see fit to include. We need to study what is revealed about the mind and heart of Jesus, the mystery of grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without being distracted by minor matters that just pique our curiosity. The Scriptures are for those who want spiritual enlightenment, not religious sightseeing.
In Matthew 23:23-26 Jesus continues his “profile” of the Pharisees. We need to understand the spirit of Phariseeism, because if it were not going to be a lasting problem in the Church, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired the evangelists to write so much about it.
Jesus describes the Pharisee spirit as focusing on minor, if obligatory, details while ignoring more important issues. We see this in people who can quote every minor directive from the Vatican about liturgy and the administration of the sacraments, but have no interest at all in the papal encyclicals on social justice or the documents of Vatican II. They “tithe mint, dill, and cumin” — are scrupulous about minor obligations and their personal devotions — but “have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” They can be thoughtless, unfeeling and even cruel to those who are not “in step” because they are stumbling and trying to find their way. They cannot see how anyone can be “in good faith” who is not “in good standing” with the Church.
The “Pharisees” scrutinize external conduct but are blind to interior attitudes and values. They assume they are “just” if in everything specified by law their acts are “just right.” The truth is, nothing we do is “just right” unless, by reflecting the mind and heart of God, we see it is “right and just.” And sometimes law observance isn’t, as when we follow the letter of the law without asking what its purpose is and where it is actually leading us or others in our concrete circumstances. It is standard Church teaching that if we obey a law when we know it will not achieve the goal of the legislator we are being disobedient.
God is not satisfied with an obedience to his commandments that just does what he says without asking why he says it and what it reveals of God’s mind and heart. A dog can be trained to obey that way! Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). This will be his focus when “The Lord comes to judge the earth.”
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Minister according to the mind and heart of God.
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