Tuesday, August 8, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for Tuesday, 18th Week of Ordinary Time: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings LECTIONARY 408 (Nm 12: 1-13; Ps 51: 3-4, 5-6, 6-7, 12-13; alternate gospel in year A: Mt 15: 1-2, 10-14) The Responsorial (Psalm 51) is a cry of hope: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” Numbers 12: 1-13: Miriam and Aaron spoke badly of Moses because of one of the greatest problems in ministry: envy. The Lord reacted with vigor. We need to distinguish envy from jealousy. We are “jealous” when we want what others have. Jealousy is more feeling than choice, and it is not very serious. But we are envious when, because we can’t have what others have, we don’t want them to have it either and work against them. This is the sin of the devil, who, deprived of good himself, wants no one else to have it. Envy is a positive choice to work against God in order to aggrandize self. It is not just putting self-interest ahead of ministry, through laziness, avarice or self-indulgence. It is to side positively with the devil against God. In a faith community, envy is an aggressive virus that must be stopped cold. Even so, we must show compassion and gentleness, as Moses asked God to do for Miriam. All sins, our own or others’, should be for us an incentive to ask God for mercy with confident hope: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” In Matthew 15: 1-14[i] Jesus called the Pharisees and the “scribes,” the religion teachers who were infected by their legalistic spirit, “blind guides.” Why? It was because they were blind to the purpose of the rules they defended. Blind to the circumstances which in particular cases might make the literal observance of a law more harmful than helpful. They were blind to the needs of persons. Blind to everything except the letter of the law and what it said to do. Above all, they were blind to the mind and heart of God which all rules are meant to express. This blindness is hereditary: passed down in the Church from one generation of legalistic teachers to the next. It is perpetuated and reinforced by Church authorities who govern by the letter of the law. It is accepted eagerly by masses of priests and “good Catholics” who (contrary to Catholic theology) are afraid to think for themselves about the way to follow Church rules. Jesus said, “The gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.” The rules are a welcoming gate; they tell us exactly what to do. Their “road is easy” to follow. But it “leads to destruction” — of all that is human and divine. To use our human intellects, on the other hand, while trying to discern the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit in making free, personal decisions, can be a pretty exacting process. Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Few want to make the effort to find the precise way to obey a rule in particular circumstances or take the responsibility of making a personal judgment. So the blind keep leading and following the blind.[ii]
Initiative: Be a priest. Seek and show the way of life. Open your eyes.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry