Fr. Pecchie's Message 08/29/21

Today we have the encounter of Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus sums up His critique of these Pharisees by pointing out that they "disregard God's commandment, but cling to human traditions." Throughout this whole exchange, Jesus uses that same definitive tone.

He is not merely arguing with the Pharisees, as if He were presenting one theological opinion and the Pharisees were presenting another. Jesus is not acting like a philosopher or a mere professor. Jesus is speaking with authority, opposing and correcting their distorted doctrines and practices. He is not afraid to voice this opposition publicly, when that is necessary. And He does so with total confidence and imperturbable poise, even though the people He is confronting have the power to condemn Him to death.

This tone of authority and direct condemnation shows the seriousness of Christ's claims. The people of Israel who heard both Christ's and the Pharisees' teachings could not follow both. It was becoming clearer by the day, as Jesus went about His public ministry, that He was demanding an undivided allegiance. He was the one declaring "God's commandment," and anyone contradicting Him was declaring nothing more than "human traditions." His teachings were not optional addenda; they were not items on a menu that His listeners could choose between based on personal preference or mood; they were the divine truth, and they called for a total commitment, a total faith.

As we heard in today's First Reading, the commandments that were given to the people of Israel by Moses were commandments of God; they had divine authority behind them. There  is  no doubt that Jesus Christ invoked that same divine authority for His teaching, while at the  same time exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who vainly tried to exercise that  authority  in support of their mistaken, hypocritical agenda. Such was Jesus then, and so He is now: the Lord, not the Consultant.

This is the supernatural reasoning behind the motto used by Blessed Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963. When he was chosen pope, he announced that his motto would be "obedientia et pax," which is Latin for "obedience and peace." Obedience to God, to His commandments, His will, and His inspirations, is the highway to true interior peace. Think of a carpenter who tries to build a house without obeying the laws of physics.  Not only will the house be a disaster, but the carpenter will become frustrated, angry, depressed, and injured.

In the moral and spiritual realms we face a similar situation. God has created us to flourish by following the laws of human nature, the laws of morality and faith. God is the inventor of those laws, just as He invented the laws of physics; He built them into the universe. If we resist and disobey them, which popular culture, the devil, and our fallen tendencies are trying to get us to do all the time, we will mess up our lives and end up miserable.

Pope John XXIII's favorite saint was St. Joseph, a model of obedience, even when what God asked him was difficult. God asked him to accept the stigma of marrying a woman who got pregnant out of wedlock; to live in perpetual continence; to support his family on little income; to shelter his wife in a cave instead of a comfortable room when she was going to give birth; to flee at night on the spur of the moment across the desert to Egypt with a newborn baby, Jesus, whom the king was trying to murder...

God was always asking St. Joseph to take the narrow, steep road through life. And Joseph always obeyed, because he was always ready to obey, because he understood that God was the Lord, not just a consultant.


There are no comments yet - be the first one to comment: