|Memorial of St. Augustine
First Thessalonians 2:1-8
Psalms 139:1-3, 4-5
In this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is venting against the scribes and Pharisees. The object of his frustration and perturbation is their distorted values. Jesus points out that ritual and pious practice can be helpful, but the scribes and Pharisees have made them ends in themselves rather than means.
We may look down on the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. Unfortunately, we may, at times, have a bit of the hypocrite in us. In days gone by, we abstained from meat on Fridays, fasted and abstained during Lent, observed Rogation Days, and so forth. All of the above were means that made us feel holy. I mean a Catholic had to be tough! There may be other forms of ritual and practice currently that give us warm feelings.
Why do we get caught in this trap? First of all, there is clear accountability, for example, we either eat something or we don’t. Being kind and just are fuzzy, and the final results are not always known. It is a case of black-and-white situations versus possibly maddening, gray situations. It is easier to deal with the former.
As Jesus points out, we must not neglect ritual and practice.
The challenge is to face up “the weightier matters of the law.” It
is easy to become distracted from this intent. Often a lack of courage
is the reason. So maybe Christians do have to be tough—with God’s
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