Homily for Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
In our readings today, we hear Jesus and St. Paul calling out the Pharisees and the early Christian community, respectively, for their inclination of being so focused on fulfilling the prescripts of the Jewish Law – in particular the ritual law – while missing the very Author of the Law. It’s kind of like yesterday’s Gospel with the sign vs. the Giver of the Sign. The Pharisees and the Galatians are so focused on the Law that they totally missed the Giver of the Law.
In our first reading, Paul says that, as Christians, the Galatians are not obliged to observe the Law because Jesus liberated them from it. In particular, Paul speaks out against the need for every convert to Christianity to be circumcised. He is calling members of the community out for missing the point about the conversion of these individuals. They converted because they had an encounter with the Lord, they had found freedom through faith in Jesus…not because they followed the Law.
We see something similar in our Gospel. Jesus calls out the Pharisee who is focused on the washing, the purification, the Mosaic Law when Jesus is literally sitting there at the table with him. God is with him and that’s what he’s worried about?! The Pharisee totally missed the point.
The first line of the Gospel says “after Jesus had spoken,” which shows the power of the Word of God, Jesus Himself. It is the spoken Word of Jesus that draws others into an encounter that leads to a change of heart and a deeper sense of faith. Even the Pharisee had one of those encounters. How do you think Jesus ended up in his home? It was the words spoken by Jesus that touched something in the heart of the Pharisee.
The Law isn’t the word that changes hearts; Jesus’ words only have that power. That’s the difference. It is from those Words that the Law flows. We must be focused first and foremost on those words. Even the Responsorial Psalm reflects this point. It calls us to recognize God in His mercy before moving to His laws and the need to follow his ordinances. It’s those words of Jesus that draw us into deeper intimacy and relationship with God. It is Jesus, the very Word of God that gives meaning to the Law. And if we don’t know Jesus, then we don’t know anything.
How many times have we been guilty of this? How many times have we come to Mass and been so distracted by what someone else was doing or wearing that we missed an important part of the reading or, worse, missed the moment of consecration? How many of us have received Communion and then returned to our seats and, instead of praying a prayer of thanksgiving, watch and criticize others for how they receive Communion? Like the Pharisees and the Galatians, we can often times become so focused on something so minuscule that we miss Jesus in our midst.
Today, the Lord is inviting all of us to be aware of those times when we have missed Him sitting right in front of us. He’s inviting us to pay attention to His words and how He is drawing us into deeper relationship with Him. We don’t need to be so focused on doing things exactly as they should be. Instead, we should be focused on building on our trust and intimacy with Him. Most importantly, He’s begging us to not miss Him in the Eucharist. May we receive Him today fully aware of His presence among us and allow Him to draw us ever more deeply into His love.