Jesus sure could give it to the scribes and Pharisees. He doesn’t
mince words in today’s Gospel, calling them hypocrites for
their focus on tithes on trivial things while neglecting judgment,
mercy and fidelity. I don’t like to think of myself as a hypocrite,
yet there are times in my own life when my focus turns to those
small things, to following the letter of the law while ignoring
the spirit of the law, which is fidelity to the concept of seeing
God in all people.
The misplaced focus can happen when we become too fixated on things
and appearances and ourselves. We get caught up in the petty self-righteousness
of everyday life. And while making sure my trivial tithes count
up might give some satisfaction, I know it’s a hollow, tainted
feeling that does nothing to sustain me or strengthen my heart.
If the outside of the cup is clean and shiny, but the inside is
full of self-indulgence, all the surfaces are tarnished. We have
to come clean inside and out. We have to work at changing our focus
to judgment, mercy and fidelity.
The first reading offers a prayer that can help us ask God to keep
our lives in focus, to remember what is really important:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved
us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through
his grace, encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good
deed and word.