Every time I read today’s passage of Luke’s Gospel, I wonder if Jesus stayed for dinner at the Pharisee’s home after he was criticized for not observing "the prescribed washing before the meal," which made him admonish and be impolite to his hostess. For Jesus not only insults the Pharisees and the Scribes, but also accuses them of being evildoers, fools, and hypocrites. Even if he has good reasons to disagree with the Pharisees’ traditional legalistic thinking and act in self-defense, as a guest, Jesus still owes respect to his hostess’ domestic protocols. So, if he was true to himself and his reprimanding words, Jesus probably left the Pharisee’s home without eating dinner. Otherwise, it would be cynical of him, as of anyone of us, to have stayed enjoying dinner after showing a difficult attitude to his/our hostesses.
Jesus highlights the most important thing in and of our covenanting relationship with God, which is to appreciate, praise, and enjoy the goodness and beauty of God’s creation. But, according to Jesus and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, we are to do that not on the basis of the ritualistic observances of the Law which do not justify us before God, but on the life-giving basis of God’s grace which helps us build and strengthen our relationships with God and one another. We totally depend on the Lord’s mercy, which the psalmist implores to be shown to him and those who trust in the Lord’s redemptive love, not in their thoughts and acts of self-righteousness.
Although it is clear and simple, the message of today’s readings is certainly not easy to accept and put into practice, for it is only by faith in Christ Jesus "working through love" and the sanctifying action of the Spirit that we are set and called to remain free from "the yoke of slavery." In fact, like the Pharisee of today’s gospel, how many times are we not prompt to judge and exclude others for not thinking and behaving like us? "Faith working through love" implies our acceptance of others’ gifts and talents, no matter who they are and how they relate to God and their neighbors, for it is about integration not assimilation. So, when we reflect on our covenanting relationship with God and our faith and salvation in Christ Jesus, do we trust in God and therefore make ourselves dependent on God’s mercy? Or do we rely on our ritualistic observances of the Law and our deeds of self-righteousness?
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.