Tuesday, 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Institutionalized religion always runs the risk of insincerity or, in the worst case, hypocrisy. Interestingly, the only people Jesus denounces in the Gospels are the scribes and Pharisees and their like. He accuses them of not understanding God because they do not see the importance of the fundamentals or the “weightier things” – justice, mercy and faith.
The religion of the scribes and Pharisees values rules over relationships, appearances over authenticity, respectability over righteousness. Jesus, however, is trying to say that faith is not about rules it is about relationship That it is not about “looking good” but “doing good.” That it is not being in a position of honor but being in a position to serve.
Jesus is reminding us once again that the heart and soul of our faith and of our religion is loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Hence, we must be like Jesus: passionate about relationships. We must fall passionately in love with God. Once we know God and love God, then we will be inspired to live a pure and holy life. Following the rules will come naturally.
Jesus is also warning us of the danger of worshipping God with exterior rites while not conforming our life to the will of God. Rites and pious devotions often serve as a cover for impiety in the heart. Again, our Christian religion must not be about “looking good” (appearing to be pious to get the admiration of others); rather, it is about “doing good” – helping the needy, serving the poor, showing compassion for the afflicted, doing the works of mercy, promoting peace based on social justice. That is why we must be concerned with “weightier things.”
We must be clear about the difference between a respectable Christian and a true Christian Jesus makes that very distinction by saying: “The greatest among you must be your servant.” “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We must never treat our religious position as a status symbol, as a position of honor, as a means to gain ‘respectability’. There is only one position we must desire: the position to serve, the position to render humble service.
Let us pray that we may value relationships over rules, authenticity over appearances, righteousness over respectability.