October 12th, 2022 – Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel Jesus offers stinging rebukes to the scribes and Pharisees based on the way that they have lived out the law.
It’s true that the Jews were supposed to offer a tenth of what they grew to God. For instance, in Leviticus 27:30 we read, “All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord; they are sacred to the Lord.” Yet, the plants Jesus mentions, mint, rue, and “garden herbs,” are spices used for cooking or medicine; a family might have a few such plants in their gardens, but they wouldn’t have been grown in large quantities. The Pharisees are careful to pay tithes even on these tiny plants; notice that Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for following the law so carefully, since He says, “These you should have done.” However, the problem is that they have made this material completion of the law their end, and have forgotten that the law is merely a means to an end. They have followed the law to the letter, but neglected the spirit of it, the reason for it. The Greek words Jesus uses means divine judgment, mercy in the sense of loyalty to God’s covenant, and faithfulness to God; these things the Pharisees have entirely cast aside.
It’s not a mere material fulfillment of God’s law that saves or makes us happy. Christ Himself will give the proper order at the Last Supper: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). If you love Me, then you will keep my Commandments, not, if you keep My commandments, then clearly you must love Me. The Pharisees do the right things, but for the wrong reasons, and so miss what is really important.
We can see the right way this principle is lived out in the life of Saint Margaret Mary, who received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although she was stricken with sufferings, both from within and without, she wrote: “When I behold my sufferings, it seems to me that I feel the same joy that the most avaricious and ambitious do in seeing their treasures multiply.” Because she loved God, she saw everything as a means to draw near to Him; what matter to her wasn’t just going to Mass on Sunday because “she had to,” or not stealing “because she shouldn’t,” but rather loving God, even in the most difficult and trying times.
Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, for the grace to kindle in our hearts that fire of love for God, and to follow His commandments, not simply to the letter, but rather in the spirit with which He gave them.