Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 11,37-41

He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, 'You Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and, look, everything will be clean for you.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel passage presents to us a Pharisee who invites Jesus to dine at his home. For Jesus these meals are a precious opportunity to show the value of welcome and hospitality: those meals seem to suggest the image of the Kingdom where the breadth of welcome and the joy of communion count and certainly not the observance of ritual practices. Jesus realizes the malevolent soul of the Pharisee, without him opening his mouth. But he answers him even before he speaks. Jesus does not respond to the ritual question that worried the Pharisee. He moves it to another plane, that of the heart. His speech is particularly harsh. Jesus immediately makes it clear to the Pharisee that what counts in life is not appearance, even if correct, but being a man and a woman with a merciful heart. We must say that also in our society where appearances count more than being and merc, this brief Gospel passage refocuses our attention on what is truly important in life. It is in the heart, in the inner part, that a person's life, happiness, and salvation are played out. If our heart is full of wickedness, then our actions will be wicked too. It does not count multiplying gestures and actions if our heart is full of "greed and wickedness." Rather, Jesus urges his listeners to "give for alms those things that are within," that is, to give the love that is in our hearts. True wealth is the love that every believer receives from God and not the multiplication of rituals we practice. The whole biblical tradition, which reaches its climax in the Gospel, urges Christians to give alms, not because it is the "solution" to social problems, but because it is the first step towards love: giving alms forces us to turn our gaze from ourselves towards the needy and to give them something, even if just a little. Woe to those who would stop a heart from taking this first step beyond itself. If we do that, we will remain trapped in our selfishness.