Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.

Law; an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community. - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Lk 11:42-46): Jesus said, «A curse is on you, Pharisees; for the Temple you give a tenth of all, including mint and rue and the other herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. This ought to be practiced, without neglecting the other. A curse is on you, Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the marketplace. A curse is on you for you are like tombstones of the dead which can hardly be seen; people don't notice them and make themselves unclean by stepping on them». Then a teacher of the Law spoke up and said, «Master, when you speak like this, you insult us, too». And Jesus answered, «A curse is on you also, teachers of the Law. For you prepare unbearable burdens and load them on the people, while you yourselves don't move a finger to help them».

The Israelites offered the Lord a tithe of ten percent of their harvested crop, usually wheat or barley. A faithful Israelite farmer tithed annually from the harvest of his field (Dt 14:22; Lv 27:30).

The Pharisees Jesus addressed may not have been farmers. Instead of growing wheat or barley, they grew smaller "garden plants" and herbs such as mint and rue that they could grow in their yard (Lk 11:42). They surpassed the letter of the law by remembering to pay tithes on even the smallest plants grown in their home. Using a modern day parallel, farmers pay taxes on the crops they grow in their large fields. Yet what farmer would consider paying taxes on the cucumbers they grow in their backyard? These Pharisees were law-loving and law-abiding — well beyond the point of what was required or even reasonable. In their zeal for God and His law, they wanted to go well beyond the minimum.

If you are a Catholic who takes their faith seriously, you probably also want to go beyond the minimum for God. You may attend Mass more than once a week. You might read Scripture or pray the rosary daily. This is loosely analogous to paying tithes on garden plants. Jesus teaches the Pharisees and us that we must not omit this desire to go well beyond the minimum for God (Lk 11:42). Yet we shouldn't be so zealous for excellence in spiritual acts that we forget the fundamental reason for those acts: "justice and the love of God" (Lk 11:42). "These are the things you should practice, without omitting the others" (Lk 11:42).

We can easily get off track and today’s readings merely point our attention back to our heavenly goals. May we each find the tool or the exercise that helps keep this goal in mind as we strive to serve a world that is in desperate need of saving.

No comments:

Post a Comment