Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Spirit of the Law

In today's Gospel (Matthew 23: 23-26) the Lord warns the scribes and Pharisees (and by extension, all of us as well) that they need to be more concerned with what is integral to their lives, those values that should be guiding all actions. Evidently there was a lot of finger pointing being done, but none of it was being focused on their own actions. The Lord indicates that they had been very harsh in demanding that others adhere to the smallest and insignificant laws, but had failed to adopt what the law sought to instill in them. The paying of tithes (donations to the temple) and cleansing of utensils have overshadowed judgement, mercy and fidelity, and the Lord denounces them as hypocrites. Certainly the gospel does not portray the Lord as treating the scribes and Pharisees gently. Our impulse may be to denounce them as well and feel superior. We have to be very careful about this, however.
It is always easier to see the faults in other than in ourselves, but the Lord call us to look at ourselves and make sure we are being faithful to who we are called to be. We may be quick to point out how others are not being faithful, not following the commandments, not living as they should. But before we try to tell others how to live, we better take a look at our own lives. Most of us, you see, are rather selective in following the law. We don't steal, just "borrow" things from work. We only tell "little white lies". Simply going to Mass means that we have kept holy the Lord's day, and "God understands" when we decide not to if we are too tired or busy.
The Lord speaks to us as He speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. He expects that we will make sure that we are pure inside, not just outside. He demands that we not neglect the "weightier" things that are at the core of our faith, and follow His example. If we can try each day to live as Christ wants, doing the Father's will, we will not have to be worried about being lumped in with the scribes and Pharisees, but will be counted among the faithful who are part of God's Kingdom. This is what it means to live the spirit of the law - living like Christ.

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