"Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue
and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and
to love for God."
In today’s gospel, addressing his message to the Pharisees, the teachers – and to us – he tries to grab our attention: “Woe to you!” His message to the Pharisees is not about paying the prescribed tithes under the Law of Moses but about ignoring those things which Jesus considers more important, including the love of God and of other people.
He chastises Pharisees for accepting honors and recognition in their relatively easy life while their unbending adherence to the law made life so much more difficult for everyone else. When the scholars protest, feeling they might have been insulted by his words, he makes clear that they have, telling them, “You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
In our lives today, Jesus’ message is as powerful as ever. Often, our critical eye doesn't miss a thing done incorrectly by our enemies, our politicians, those who are not our friends and sometimes those we simply don't want to understand. We are quick with our criticism and sharp with our judgment. And too often, we are also quick to absolve ourselves of the sins we can see so clearly in others.
Today's gospel might inspire us to take a one-day moratorium from criticizing anyone. It's a small start that could make us more aware of how we really see things. We can begin by asking Jesus for his help. We can beg for forgiveness from our picking and nagging and the unconscious stream of clever commentary we might carry with us while dealing with spouses, families, someone in the grocery store or even while getting the day's news.
Dear Jesus, help me for this day to love people as you love them. Help me to bite my tongue and offer forgiveness with a generous heart. Let me try to understand others as you understand me in all of my flawed humanity. Thank you for your many gifts in my life. May I appreciate them and be more grateful for what I have been given.
It is when we are more aware of how deeply we are loved by God that we can be moved by the gratitude that will ease the judgmental burden we carry with us so often.
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