THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for October 14th, 2014
Opt. Memorial of St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr
Liturgical texs here
IT is often said that Jesus was tolerant towards “sinners” but intolerant of the Pharisees. But this isn’t quite true. Jesus often rebuked the Apostles as well, and in fact in yesterday’s Gospel, it was the entire crowd to whom He was very blunt, warning that they would be shown less mercy than the Ninevites:
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation…” (Luke 11:29)
What seemed to inspire Jesus in these moments of correction was a fairly consistent ingredient in His listeners: duplicity. Yesterday, the people wanted signs, but Jesus exposed their true intentions. Likewise, the Apostles were often rebuked for being more concerned about their reputation than about serving. And today, the Pharisee was corrected for his pre-occupation with controlling the status quo than converting the state of his heart.
Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. (Today’s Gospel)
Yes, the Lord seems most perturbed when churchmen say one thing, and do another. The first seven letters in Revelation addressed to the churches and their “angels” (which was also understood to mean their leaders) contain, among words of encouragement, strong rebukes to the “lukewarm” for their compromise. Such as the letter to Thyatira (keep in mind, this is Jesus speaking):
I know your works, your love and faith and service… But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her doings… (Rev 2:19-22)
We hear repeated again in today’s first reading: Christ set us free for freedom. It is an affront to our Lord to “tolerate” and even encourage—whether implictly or explicitly—the voice of Jezebel, the voice of slavery. I can almost hear Jesus crying out: “Don’t you know that I suffered to set you free? To make you holy? To make you like Me?”
You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)
The outside must match the inside, and vice versa. Jesus wants us to be holy, to be perfect, because that is when we will be happiest.
The antidote to hypocrisy is enunciated beautifully in the Psalm today: it is to sync one’s actions with one’s heart by bringing both into conformity with the Word of God, specifically, His commandments—the truth which sets us free.
Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for in your ordinances is my hope… And I will walk at liberty, because I seek your precepts. (Today’s Psalm)
Man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. —POPE PAUL VI, Humanae Vitae, Encyclical, n. 31; July 25th, 1968
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