GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
Has anyone noticed a theme that has come up during the past few Sundays? For those ardent studiers of the lectionary, I am talking about the Sundays from the second to the fifth Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross. In these Gospel passages, Christ has an encounter with the Pharisees and in each encounter, Christ shows them the error of their logic.
Some questions will pop up when contemplating the reasoning behind this such as; why does Christ chastise them, what is it that the Pharisees do not understand and why are we being reminded of these events during this season? Christ chastises them because the Pharisees were supposed to be the ones who have read the Scriptures and were to teach it to the people. They should have learned from Scripture everything that Christ teaches during His ministry. Christ does not teach anything new, but tells us two commandments; to love God and to love our neighbor. The thing which the Pharisees did not understand was the simple point which is that we are to love and that God has made and called us to love. For why do we exalt the Cross? It is because the Cross is the ultimate sign of God’s love for mankind.
However, look at the Pharisees. They did everything which was prescribed to them by the Laws of Moses. There would be very few Pharisees who would break one of the Laws because they knew the consequences of such an act, and yet they did not see what the entirety of the Scriptures was pointing towards. They acted out these Laws out of obedience, but they did not do so out of love. They see Christ heal the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and are enraged for Christ has done work on the Sabbath. They even hear the most joyous news of the Resurrection of our Lord, yet because of their hardened hearts, they tell those who were witnesses to be silent.
In John’s Gospel, we see Peter and John running towards the empty tomb and our fathers have used this narrative to show how we are to approach the Christian life. For St. John represents love while St. Peter represents the Faith and obedience to its laws. John approaches the empty tomb before Peter which shows us that we are to approach our Christian life with love before we add on heavy yokes of prescribed laws.
For when we fast, is it a burden or is it a show of our reliance on God? What about our lengthy prayers, are they are a nuisance or are they a show of our intimacy with God? Do we help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and those who are sick because we are told to do so? Or do we do this because of the genuine love we have for God and all that is made in His Image and Likeness?
It is good if we do the prescribed fasts and do the prayers of the Church. It is so beautiful that this Church does so much in terms of Charity. But I have to ask one important question. If these things are being done for any reason outside of the Love of God and man, what separates you from the Pharisees whom God chastises. This is not to say that we are to stop living a Christian life, but we should learn to do these things, not out of obligation or fear of repercussions, but out of a desire to express our love for God and man. Let us all pray that God teaches us to Love as He Loves and that His Love abides within every single one of us as we are to receive the Holy Eucharist.