Courage, Charity & Truth
August 4, 2020
Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
Jeremiah 30.1-2, 12-15, 18-22
Matthew 15.1-2, 10-14
Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Matthew 15:12-14
Why were the Pharisees offended? In part because Jesus just spoke critically of them. But it was more than that. They were also offended because Jesus doesn’t even answer their question.
These Pharisees and scribes came to ask Jesus what was, in their minds, a very important question. They wanted to know why His disciples failed to follow the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before they ate. But Jesus does something interesting. Instead of answering their question, He gathers a crowd and says, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one” (Mt. 15:10b-11). So they were offended by Jesus both because of what He said and because He didn’t even say it to them but spoke it to the crowds.
What’s interesting to note is that sometimes the most charitable thing one can do will result in another being offended. We ought not recklessly offend. But it seems that one of the cultural tendencies of our day and age is to avoid offending people at all costs. As a result, we dumb down morality, ignore clear teachings of faith, and make “getting along” one of the most important “virtues” we strive for.
In the passage above, it’s clear that Jesus’ disciples are concerned about the fact that the Pharisees were offended by Jesus. They worry and appear to want Jesus to fix this tense situation. But Jesus makes His position clear. “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14).
Charity requires the truth. And sometimes the truth will sting a person to the heart. Clearly this is exactly what the Pharisees need even though they fail to change, which is evident by the fact that they ultimately killed Jesus. But, nonetheless, these truths spoken by our Lord were acts of charity and were the truth that these scribes and Pharisees needed to hear.
Reflect, today, upon how willing you are to speak the hard truth in love when a situation requires it. Do you have the courage you need to charitably speak an “offensive” truth that needs to be spoken? Or do you tend to cower and prefer to allow people to remain in their error so that you do not agitate them? Courage, charity and truth must become deeply intertwined in our lives. Make this your prayer and mission so that you will better imitate our divine Lord.
Lord, please do give me courage, truth, wisdom and charity so that I may be a better instrument of Your love and mercy to the world. May I never allow fear to control me. Please remove any blindness from my heart so that I can see clearly the many ways You desire to use me to lead others to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Humility + Faith = Mercy
August 5, 2020
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Matthew 15:25-27
Did Jesus really imply that helping this woman was like throwing food to dogs? Most of us would have taken great offense at what Jesus said as a result of our pride. But what He said was true and was not rude in any way. Jesus obviously cannot be rude. Nonetheless, His statement has the superficial appearance of being rude.
First, let’s look at how His statement is true. Jesus was being asked by this woman to come heal her daughter. Basically, Jesus tells her she is not deserving of this grace in anyway. And that’s true. No more than a dog deserves to be fed from the table do we deserve the grace of God. Though this is a shocking way to say it, Jesus says it this way so as to first illustrate the truth of our sinful condition and unworthiness. And this woman takes it.
Second, Jesus’ statement allows this woman to react with the utmost humility and faith. Her humility is seen in the fact that she does not deny the parallel to a dog eating from the table. Rather, she humbly points out that even dogs eat the scraps. Wow, this is humility! In fact, we can be certain that Jesus spoke to her in this somewhat humiliating way because He knew how humble she was and He knew that she would react by letting her humility shine forth so as to manifest her faith. She was not offended by the humble truth of her unworthiness; rather, she embraced it and also sought out the abundant mercy of God despite her unworthiness.
Humility has the potential to unleash faith, and faith unleashes the mercy and power of God. In the end, Jesus speaks for all to hear, “Oh woman, great is your faith!” Her faith was made manifest and Jesus seized the opportunity to honor her for that humble faith.
Reflect, today, upon your own humility before God. How would you have reacted if Jesus spoke this way to you? Would you have been humble enough to acknowledge your unworthiness? If so, would you also have enough faith to cry out for God’s mercy despite your unworthiness? These wonderful qualities go hand in hand (humility and faith) and unleash the mercy of God!
Lord, I am unworthy. Help me to see that. Help me to see that I do not deserve Your grace in my life. But in that humble truth, may I also recognize Your abundance of mercy and never fear to call upon You for mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.