The thought I had as I read the Gospel for today, August 26, was that we often hide behind laws, traditions, customs and ancient ways in order to justify our decisions and the actions we take. We use the laws to justify our actions when it is in our personal best interest to do so. We are afraid even when we know the truth because sometimes the truth asks us to look at things from a different angle, to step away from what has always made us comfortable.
Jesus confronts the Jewish leaders with this and shames them. Jesus hails woe down upon them because of their righteous attitudes. The Law is their guide and can never steer them wrong. They look upon those who break those laws, or disrespect the tradition, with little respect or regard for the human dignity of people like that. They do not care to deal with studying the laws to make sure they are fair, are able to change people’s lives for the better or can make a difference in the way we live our lives, Jesus does not mince words as he calls them hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, even murderers. What do Jesus’ words mean for you?
Jesus knows the Tradition; he believes in the Law and respects it all, but the words punishment, restitution, revenge are not a common part of Jesus’ vocabulary and his mantra of “turn the other cheek” flies in the face of “an eye for an eye.” So we have lots to examine when it comes to our attitudes towards our current policies and expectations of all people in our society, and how justice, mercy and compassion, can play a role in improving our world. What do Jesus words mean for you?
I do not pray for the day when we will have no laws. I pray for the day when the laws we must have will truly free us to create opportunities for life to be good for all people; for the day when the systems we build and policies we create will improve our lives and not continue to maintain the status quo of rich vs poor, one race vs another, one religion vs another, women vs. men, etc., or just reinvent the wheels of oppression. I pray that one day the laws of the world will build us all up and give us reasons to hope rather than reasons to be fearful. Thus, as Jesus said, the law can be fulfilled. Jesus said he had come to fulfill the law. What do Jesus words mean for you?