The Mosaic Law levied a tithe on agricultural products. Some rabbis and teachers of the law scrupulously applied this law to the most insignificant of plants. So, in the Gospel, Jesus sees the Pharisees offering up sacrifices not of wholesome, substantial food, but rather of herbs and spices, of cumin and dill and mint. Origen of Alexandria, one of the Early Church Fathers, said that we are to offer up service and love, we are to offer up our very selves to the Lord, rather than legalisms or rituals or just going through the motions. In life, it is not that we shouldn’t pay attention to the details, especially in matters of the faith, but if we focus on the rules and regulations, losing sight of the big picture and what matters most, then we can be led astray on the road of faith.
I was reading the commentary for today from the Sacred Space website, which contains reflections on the daily readings from the Irish Jesuits. It noted that there are certain Christians who speak out at length about all the things that in their opinion are not being done right in the Catholic Church. Sometimes this relates to what they see in the liturgy of the Church. Sometimes they subscribe to themselves a perceived level of doctrinal and moral orthodox that they claim does not exist in others. The Sacred Space reflection says that some of them don’t even see the Pope as measuring up to their standards. Some of these criticisms lack the love and compassion that is at the heart of our faith. As a priest, I try to meet people in the midst of the nitty gritty of their everyday lives, of their everyday reality. And reality can be very harsh at times, can’t it? Let us answer the call to be focused on our Lord – to be focused on the person of Christ that is at the center of our faith. Let us be focused on nothing else.
Let me be clear – I am targeting this message at no one in particular. This is the message all of us need to hear – the message that Jesus brings us in today’s Gospel. And if this particular Gospel or any Gospel seems to be speaking to us in the contest of our lives – well then that it what God is calling us to hear.