ALAS FOR YOU PHARISEES!
Christ has liberated those who believe in him from the Jewish law, but that does not mean that they can do just anything. Freedom is not licentiousness, for that would make them slaves again, of what Paul calls “the works of the flesh.” They are now free and urged to do the good works of the Spirit.
It is surprising that Jesus could cure all ills – the blind, the deaf, lepers, yes, and also sinners aware of their failures. But he could not cure Pharisees and scribes from their “open-eyed” blindness. Jesus does perhaps not attack them so much for their literal observance of the last detail of the law but for getting so absorbed by the details of the law that they did not see the roots of all laws, justice and love. This is also the key teaching of Paul in his letter to the Galatians: not laws but the Spirit.
Lord our God,
your Son Jesus was the fulfillment
of the Law and the Prophets.
He knew and taught and lived
that the fulfillment of the Law and the promises
lies in the service of people and of you
in justice and love.
Let these too be the guides of our lives,
that with him we seek people
and above all the living person
of you, our God for ever and ever. Amen!
1 Reading: Galatians 5:18-25
Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6
R. (cf. Jn 8:12) Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night. R.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers. R.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes. R.
Alleluia John 10:27
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Luke 11:42-46
The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honour in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
For Paul, the law has a purpose as an antidote to sin where there is immorality, licentiousness, jealousy, orgies, dissension, jealousy, and the like. Where such obtains, the law can regulate such conduct, but none of it has anything to do with the reign of God. But the conduct of those who live in the Spirit is of a different order: love, joy, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Here the law has no place. Against such things there is no law.
If we belong to Christ, the flesh has been crucified with its passions and desires. To walk in the Spirit is to walk with God toward a destiny with God forever. This is the great message of hope that the preacher is called to articulate. It is small wonder that the Lucan Jesus in the Gospel was concerned about the absence in his time of a message of hope. Both the Pharisees and the scholars of the law were much too concerned with secondary matters and signs of status. It is easy to understand his frustration. This is a far cry from the message that he came to bring.
When we examine our conscience, we spend an inordinate amount of time on issues that belong to the era of the law. How much time do we devote to the good that we are called to espouse? How far are we willing to go in extending ourselves? In being truly people of the Spirit? If most of our time is spent in evaluating ourselves in the light of the commandments, we act as people of the former covenant instead of the freed people of the new dispensation. And Jesus asks us, like the Pharisees and the scholars of the law, to do thorough examination of conscience.
For missionaries and all who proclaim the faith, that their own lifestyle may be a strong argument to follow Christ, we pray:
For all prophets in the Church, that their personal encounter with Christ may give them the power to speak for what is right and good, we pray:
For us, that we may care little about outward display but for the things that matter: honesty, justice and love, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God,
we offer you ourselves through these gifts
and ask you to send us
the Holy Spirit of you and your Son.
Let him change these offerings into Jesus
and let him guide our minds and hearts
to bear fruits of life: love, joy, peace and patience
and all that brings happiness to God’s people.
May we thus live the life
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
your Son has spoken hard words today
not just to scribes and Pharisees of the past
but to us, your people today.
Let these words wake us up
from our self-complacency,
our peace with ourselves.
Keep us from deceiving ourselves
or wasting our time and effort
on things that do not matter;
make us absolutely sincere
with ourselves and with people
and honest to you, our God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
We believe in Jesus Christ. We recognize him as our Lord and Saviour. This commits us, then, to practice justice and love of God and neighbour. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!