Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 23, 23-26

'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law-justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, those not neglected.

You blind guides, straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance.

Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that it and the outside are both clean.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In the Gospel passage Jesus continues the attack on the scribes and Pharisees whose first part we have heard over the last several days. This fourth "invective" relates to the reversal of values. Jesus stigmatises the hypocrisy of paying the tithe used for the maintenance of the temple while overlooking more important practices, that is, the application of justice and mercy and the practice of faith. In the past the obligation to tithe only applied to the three most important products of earth: grain, wine, and oil, as well as to the first born of domestic animals (Deut 14:22 ff). But with their meticulous legalism, the Pharisees had expanded it to even the most insignificant products. And so Jesus stigmatises their nitpicking, their paying close attention to minutia while overlooking the central precepts, such as justice, which is respect for the dignity of every person, mercy, which is love for all and especially the poor, and faith, which means entrusting one’s life entirely to God. One cannot "strain out a gnat but swallow a camel," Jesus says. How often do we worry about minor things and instead swallow camels? We need greater interiority, a more vigorous spiritual life. There is also an additional rebuke of the Pharisees’ behaviour. They subvert the essential relationship between the heart and action, between the interior and the exterior. Believers cannot live in a divided way, that is, they cannot behave properly according to some external practices while having rotten hearts. The accusation Jesus makes against people who act like this continues to resound: they are whitewashed tombs. Life springs from the human heart. All of life depends on the heart. It is from the heart - as Jesus himself repeats multiple times in the Gospels - that rise people’s thoughts and attitudes. If the heart is shaped by love, acts of love with spring forth. If, on the contrary, the heart is inhabited by envy, rancour, hatred, pride, or love only for the self, bitter and wicked fruits will not be long in coming, for oneself and for others. The believer is called to grow the interior man - or woman - in him or herself. And this comes by cultivating prayer, listening to the Scriptures attentively and frequently, and practicing love for the weakest. It is not a matter of forgetting the law or the traditions. What Jesus asks is for us to begin with a heart inhabited by God’s love. It is in the heart that we choose between the path of good and the path of evil.