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Luke 11:42-46

The Word of God

'But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.'
One of the lawyers answered him, 'Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.' And he said, 'Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.

Luke 11:42-46
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • How easy it can be to observe the minute requirements of the law and forget its spirit!Jesus insists that the highest obligation we all have is love, and we all know that observing the rules with a spirit of love makes a big difference. I ask for the vision and the openness to observe the whole law, letter and spirit.
    • We feel very angry when our lawgivers, civil or religious, impose burdens on us which they then avoid. Do I do that too, in my small world, in my family or at work? I might find myself supporting measures that place burdens that I know are unbearable. Alas for you, Jesus says.
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    • The sad fact of spiritual power, being abused and diverted so as to give status and prestige to religious leaders. We know that the core of Jesus' message is loving compassion, but his words, directed at religious hypocrites, are angry words.
    • Jesus uses colourful language and memorable insults. To be an unmarked grave: to be a place of death without myself or anyone else realising it!
    • The lawyers: loaders of heavy burdens, which they do nothing to relieve. Jesus too places a burden, but his yoke is easy, his burden light. And it is the burden he takes upon himself, the cross.
    • Can I discern and distinguish these two realities in my life? The burdens which others have laid on me, and which I need to throw off? And the cross in my life, offered to me so that my suffering and the suffering of others may be transformed.
    • Today's martyr, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, prayed that he would be transformed in his martyrdom. He wished to cease being a 'mere voice'; instead, the authentic 'Word' would be spoken through him by the Spirit.
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    • Once again, I let myself be impressed by the harshness of Jesus' words to the Pharisees. He must have found it very difficult to stomach religious hypocrisy, especially when it came from the leaders.
    • He accuses lawyers of imposing heavy burdens on people and then not helping them carry them. I pray for the Church, for my religious leaders and for my religious community not to be guilty of such behaviour. May we be a sign of compassion and solidarity in a world where so many people carry very heavy burdens.
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    • Often people in authority use their position to demand conformity in detail and recognition by others of their status. This can often be at the expense of neglecting to realise that justice and proper care for others are the essential elements of service by those in authority. We are all called to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.
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    • Jesus saw that the Pharisees and lawyers were self-satisfied and realised they were starving themselves. They paid attention to what was outside while neglecting the life of the spirit. Life is not about cosmetics and advertising nor is it measured by conformity and approval.
    • In our time, there are industries, executors and campaigns whose only purpose is to attract my attention, consume my resources and to give me a ‘better’ identity. Can I hear Jesus call me back to life?
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    • The people are overburdened with laws. Jesus feels for them and comes out strongly in their defence. Am I sensitive to what may be going on in a poor person’s heart? Do I ever neglect justice and the love of God?  
    • Lord, make me aware of my needless preoccupations and infuse my heart with your spirit of love and justice. Take my poor heart and make it like your own.
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    • Jesus is again highly critical of those who are fixated on external observance and ritual. They neglect the more important aspects of life, such as justice, love of God and neighbour. In my own attitudes and values, do I display the mentality of a Pharisee or a Christian?
    • Jesus is also critical of the rigorous attitude of lawyers who make life worse for those whom they are meant to help. The letter of the law must not override its spirit: law is meant to serve people well.
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    • Does Jesus perhaps need to shock me into living my life more from the inside than from outward appearances?
    • ‘Justice and the love of God’ are what matter. I beg that I may ease the burdens of others and be compassionate to those at the bottom of the social scale.
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    • God may be the God of small things, but not of the small mind and small heart. Jesus rebukes people who get uptight and upset over the small things of religion or for those who want to be honoured for religious ceremony. The religion God looks for is the faith of the heart, and the love that is born of faith and itself gives birth to deeper faith.