October 15, 2017

Chosen: A Reflection for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus with the Pharisees

By Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America

(Isaiah 45:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21)

Cyrus is a fascinating historical personage. His was the largest empire the world had yet seen. He governed wisely, repatriating deported peoples, and respecting cultures and religions, including Judaism. In the Bible, he is the only pagan to be called ‘Anointed,’ which in Hebrew is the word ‘Messiah.’ God called him by name, i.e., he had a special purpose for him. He was chosen.

St. Paul calls to mind the faith and love of the Thessalonians, and knows how they were chosen, to become disciples of Jesus Christ, whose name means ‘Lord-Savior Anointed.’

The Pharisees had a clear sense of their mission. Among the chosen people of Israel, they were to be faithful to the Law of God, to promote fidelity to it, and to defend it. In the Gospels they were often scandalized by Jesus’ seeming indifference to the Law, and more than once they tried to trap him in his words, as we see today.

One might be tempted to think that the attitude of the Pharisees is reflected in the message of Christ. The Lord’s Day, the Holy Name, Fasting: these laws seem to matter as much to Jesus as to the Pharisees.

There is a great difference, however. First of all, let us recall that, early in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets… Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17, 19).

But, two verses later, he added: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This was not an indictment of the Pharisees, but a call to be more than keepers of the Law.

The Law was a gift. Its aim was to make it possible to know God’s will and follow it, and thereby find prosperity and security, leading to praise. This is reflected in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”

That is ultimately what we are chosen for, to glorify God in word and deed.

No comments :