In the reading today from Gospel According to Luke, the Pharisees and tax collectors observed that fellow collector Levi (Matthew) dropped everything and joined Jesus. At the great banquet that Levi gave after his decision, his fellow tax collectors and others looked askance at the disciples of Jesus:
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Jesus consistently criticized the Pharisees because they acted pious because their displays of faith were not genuine. They were acting pious but did not have piety.
Early on in my life as a Catholic, I was absolutely pious – I made hypocritical displays of virtue. I cringe looking back at my foolery and thanks be to God, I have learned better. So when I come across the Pharisees in scripture, I remember that I am a Pharisee when I think I can take over for God as I judge the actions of others.
How then can I receive piety (one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit) without being pious (making a hypocritical display of virtue)?
Fortunately, the first reading today from Isaiah (58:9b-14) provides 7 ways to have piety without being pious. I broke them down into three categories:
“Remove from your midst”:
1. “oppression” – do not oppress others with your words or actions or attempt to control or coerce them to do your bidding.
2. “false accusation” – to accuse someone falsely is of course lying. No one likes a liar but all of us lie. If you struggle with truth-telling, consider why you do it. Is it to be liked? To spare someone’s feelings? Is it to hurt them?
3. “malicious speech” – just like lying, no one likes to be the target of gossip yet we gossip about one another. there is an entire branch of publishing (tabloids) that makes billions of dollars selling malicious speech.
4. “bestow your bread on the hungry” – tithe, give food, clothes and money to the poor.
5. “satisfy the afflicted” - be a source of support for those afflicted by mental, physical, emotional or spiritual distress.
“On the sabbath”:
6. “hold back your foot from following your own pursuits on my holy day” – Life is busy and it is easy to think that the sabbath is a day to catch up on things like shopping. Consider that when we shop on Sundays, we force other brothers and sisters to work.
7. “call the sabbath a delight” – I enjoyed this perspective on our holy day. The Church teaches that it is a day of celebration so we can delight in it.
If we do these 7 things, the prophet Isaiah said that:
“Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.”
I hope everyone has a blessed sabbath tomorrow. I pray each day for all of you.
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Today we remember Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio - the angel of Mexico.