11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 16th
What a scene! All of us are used to reading through the four Gospels and while they in general have a rather steady flow, from time to time something really jumps out at us. I think that today’s excerpt from the 7th chapter of St. Luke is a good example of that.
The scene reflects that Jesus, who has been preaching throughout the countryside, has accepted an invitation to dinner from one of the Pharisees. That is one of the religious factions that was most opposed to him during his public life. That says a lot about our Lord, doesn’t it?
Sometimes the bishops reflect a very limited approach to communication. They don’t want to talk to anybody who is not in complete agreement with them. Today’s Gospel excerpt reflects that Jesus was more than willing to reach out to people of different views and values.
Sitting at the dining room table of his Pharisee host, a woman suddenly appears on her knees before him. Saying nothing, she begins to anoint his bare feet weeping, weeping, weeping as she did so. Being the Pharisee that he is, he goes straight to rash judgments. Doesn’t Jesus know that this woman is a prostitute? Why doesn’t he push her away? How can he be a holy man if he allows this sort of a woman to approach him?
The rest flows naturally. Jesus points out to the hypocritical Pharisee, and to you and to me, that we should never be frightened because of past sinfulness or moral mistakes. Those of us who have sinned gravely will be embraced all the more strongly by our Divine Lord when we come to him in sorrow. We also hear what the woman heard. When we are sorry our sins the voice of Jesus comes into our lives with this magnificent sentence. “Your sins are forgiven.”
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22nd Sunday of the Year (August 28th)
The word “Pharisee” is a frequently used English word. When we describe a person as being Pharisaical, we mean that they manifest the worst kind of phoniness – putting on a mask of religious propriety while, at the same time, acting in the opposite direction.
Jesus did not like the Pharisees! In today’s Gospel excerpt, we see that confrontation where the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the time, attack Jesus for not obeying the most minute aspects of the Mosaic Law. Our Lord blasts them and points out that it is not the violation of external liturgical laws that is the root of evil, but rather wicked designs that come from the deep recesses of the heart. He then lists a number of them. “All of these evils come from within and render a man impure.”
When we examine our conscience, it is necessary to check ourselves carefully, not so much as to our external religious activities, such as Sunday Mass, but to gaze deeply into our own hearts and see if good works that we perform are carried out because of our love and commitment to Jesus and not in order to enhance our reputation in the eyes of others.
“Let everyone heed what he hears.”
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Today’s Gospel excerpt is another one of those texts in which our Lord speaks very unfavorably of those of us who suffer from pride, pomposity and a feeling that we are all together all too good! In this case, the contrast is between a Pharisee, an important church leader, and a tax collector. Tax collectors were the bottom of the social ladder. They were despised because they were consistently crooked in the way that they collected the taxes and also they were considered traitors because they were working for the Roman Empire. So tax collectors were the lowest of the low.
When our Lord puts the two of them in contrast – the pompous church leader and the bottom rung of society. It is the pompous church leader who comes off short. This theme appears repeatedly in our Lord’s teachings and those of us who are active in churches and in leadership positions in churches must take this one to heart. What we do in our work is important for the faithful and they look upon us with great respect. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that we earn that respect but that we are receiving it because we are doing God’s work and God’s work must be done with humility and generosity.
Onward to Jerusalem.
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