The Pharisees and we have something in common. We do not like to let go of the old and embrace the new. Change does not come easily to anyone. So we are not surprised that the Pharisees constantly complain about Jesus and his disciples who often appear to flout or change the Law.
Jesus is not the first person to advocate looking at the Law in a different light or from a different perspective. He was preceded by many prophets who tried to get the children of Israel to look at their relationship with God from a different perspective. Careful reading of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament shows us that while Moses framed the covenant as a treaty between two nations, the prophets kept calling the people to write the commandments on their hearts. In other words, they were called to enter into a relationship by loving God and loving their neighbor, something that is much more difficult than simply keeping the rules.
Before we criticize the Pharisees too harshly, let us also remember that the Christian community has also lost its way on a number of occasions in its history. In today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, we hear St. Paul chiding the community for its rash judgments. As we continue to live in the mystery that is the Church, we are sometimes caught amidst jealousy, misunderstanding, and uncharitable speech towards one another. If they don’t follow our rules or don’t agree with our position, we start with the name-calling. The history of the Church finds that the Christian community can be just as divisive and just as contentious as the any number of non-believers. One of the themes that Pope Francis continually returns to in his addresses is the scandal of gossip and spreading rumors.
So as we listen to the Scriptures today, let us call to mind that we were called to live peaceful lives that gratefully acknowledge all that God has done for us. Living in peace with one another means we must sometimes put aside all judgmental thinking and rather look for the good in all with whom we live and worship.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator