Slapping the devout
First, because we take our faith seriously, we are concerned about details. Indeed, these details often are the focus of much of our time (and certainly many of our discussions in the blogosphere).
It doesn’t take a Scripture scholar to see that many of these things are the modern equivalent of “tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb” and that our Lord’s warning in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:42-46) applies to us:
Woe to you Pharisees!
You pay tithes of mint and of rue
and of every garden herb,
but you pay no attention
and to love for God.
These you should have done,
without overlooking the others.
Details are important and we should not be “overlooking” them, but our primary focus of our minds, of our discussions, and of our deeds should be on justice and the love of God.
Second, because we take our faith seriously, we are keenly aware of others who do not: people who do not do what is right, who do not know what is right, or who simply do not care.
It doesn’t take a mind reader to see that we pass judgment on these people all the time, even though we ourselves are sinners. Just to be clear, however, St. Paul gives us another slap in today’s first reading (Romans 2:1-11):
You, O man, are without excuse,
every one of you who passes judgment.
For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,
since you, the judge, do the very same things.
that the judgment of God on those who do such things
Do you suppose, then,
you who judge those who engage in such things
and yet do them yourself,
that you will escape the judgment of God?
Or do you hold
his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience
in low esteem,
unaware that the kindness of God
would lead you to repentance?
By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,
you are storing up wrath for yourself
for the day of wrath and revelation
of the just judgment of God,
who will repay everyone according to his works,
to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality
through perseverance in good works,
but wrath and fury
to those who selfishly disobey the truth
and obey wickedness.
We must be clear about what is right and what is wrong, but we also must be very clear about our own need for penitence, for forgiveness, and for the overflowing mercy and grace of God (which we do not deserve).
Finally, as we try to make clear what is right and what is wrong, because we are imperfect ourselves, we must all help one another on the road to perfection through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, lest we run afoul of our Lord’s second warning in today’s Gospel:
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.
None of us are so perfect that we are exempt from God’s warnings or from the need for penitence and the grace of God.
Each of us must ask ourselves how serious we are about our faith: the response to grace within us.
Are we focused on the important things of life in Christ (without neglecting the details of faith)?
Do we ignore our own need for conversion, penitence, and grace?
Are we really doing all we can to help each other on the road to perfection?
Each one of us needs to heed our Lord’s warnings – to take the slap – and to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in the love and the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.