Aug 27 (Mt 23:23-26)

In Milan, Italy stands a cathedral featuring a wonderful entrance, in which one has to pass through three doors, in succession.

Each of these doors has an arch, with an inscription.

>> Over the first door is carved a beautiful wreath of roses.

Underneath is written, “All that which pleases, is but for a moment”

>> Over the second door, is sculptured a cross.

Underneath is written, “All that which troubles, is but for a moment”

>> Over the third door – which is the great entrance to the main isle, is written:

“That only is important, which is eternal!”

Do thoughts of eternity, permeate us and cast its radical influence in our every belief and action?

… Or am I stuck to being busy with the affairs of external trifles and obsessed with being engaged in only the ‘peripherals’ of life?

Am I a person plagued with only the “external” fantasies of life…

… Or am I growing to be a person making the right ‘priorities’ in life and choosing to make choices for a hopeful eternity?

The Gospel of the Day presents our Blessed Lord lashing out at the Scribal and Pharisaic attitudes of “being obsessed with the mere unimportant aspects of life” and instead, invites us to “being interested in the real necessities and true essentials of life”

Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage makes a two-pronged attack on the religious leaders of His time:

1. “…tithing mint and dill and cumin and neglecting the weightier matters of the law – justice and mercy and faith” (Mt 23:23)

>> Mint was a garden herb which had a fragrant smell. It was used to sprinkle the floors of the houses and synagogues.

>> Dill, also known as Anise, was a plant used as a spice and in medicine

>> Cumin, was a plant with seeds that have a bitter warm taste and an aromatic flavour

The Jewish Law required that a “tenth of the produce of the earth” be given as tithe (Lev 27:30)

This ‘produce of the earth’ was generally considered only to be limited to the common grains and items like corn, oil, wine etc.

>> Tiny garden herbs were not considered part of it.

However, the religious leaders, in their over-zeal to keep the law, made it a point to include even the minutest herbs, in their ‘tithing custom’.

Unfortunately, this over-zeal for the “peripheral and externals” of the law, made them to completely neglect the more important requirements of the law…

… the fragrant ‘mint’ of “justice” was denied to those in need

… the spiced ‘dill’ of “mercy” was not offered to those suffering

… the aromatic ‘cumin’ of “faith” was not displayed in situations where it mattered most

Transient aspects of life had far-overtaken their priorities over the eternal truths required from life!

2. “… cleansing the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside being full of extortion and rapacity” (Mt 23: 25)

The Jewish oral law gave rules and regulations with respect to washing and cleansing – of oneself and of the vessels used.

However, the religious leaders, in their “strict external observance” of the Law, completely missed in having also an internal purification…

… the washing of the ‘dirt’ on the outside failed to wash the ‘dirt’ of greed and avarice from their minds

… the cleaning of the ‘stains’ on the external were unable to cleanse the ‘stains’ of materialism and covetousness in their hearts

Transient aspects of life had far-overtaken their priorities over the eternal truths required from life!

And so the Lord charges them with “a vocabulary of strong condemnation” – ‘Hypocrites’ – in order to make them realize their mistake.

Theirs was a case of misplaced priorities of life

>> Theirs was a case of pursuance of wrong goals in life

Are we in the same boat as that of these Pharisees and Scribes?

>> Are we also people who invest a great deal on the “externals and peripherals of life”, but fail to give any priority or importance to the “true, real and eternal aspects of life?”

>> I may be a person who, perhaps, spends a lot of time on prayer, reading the Bible, engaging in devout activities etc

…. But do these pious actions also make me to become a person of “humility, service and grow in genuine relationships with one another?”

>> I may be a person who likes to participate in Church Fests and engaging in a lot of works for the Church and even contributing materially much

…. But do these ‘great actions of charity’ also help me to grow in my love for the Lord, personally and also help me to reach out to the poor and needy, in their craving for love and acceptance?

>> I may be a person who treasures having the statues and relics of saints, garlanding holy statues and offering them flowers, collecting exquisite rosaries, medals and other religious articles etc

…. But do these ‘external objects’ help me to look deeper into myself so that I too may grow deeper in serving the Lord with a spirit of self-sacrifice and dependence on God?

The Lord does not object to any of our “external” actions of piety or devotions.

>> But He certainly challenges and indisputably impels us to ‘grow beyond the peripherals’ and to focus on the ‘weightier aspects of our faith in Him’

This ‘focus on the greater essentials’ will definitely…

… cause inconvenience in our comforts

… and challenge us to be humbler

It is, however, this “proper prioritizing” that our Blessed Lord demands of us!

We celebrate today the Feast of St Monica, that exemplary mother-saint, who was ever-vigilant in interceding for her child, to get back to the ways of the Lord.

>> She becomes an example for us to be always be focused on the Lord, and wait in patience and hope!

Her prayers bore fruit in St Augustine, the Great Doctor of the Church

May her intercession and example inspire us to live authentic and sincere Christian lives, realizing always…

… “That only is important, which is eternal!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “To be pleased at correction and reproofs shows…

… that one loves the virtues which are contrary to those faults for which he is corrected and reproved.

>> And, therefore, it is a great sign of advancement in perfection!”

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