Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection 10-13-22

Reflection for the 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-13-22, Year C
Readings: Eph 1:1-10; Ps 98:1-6; Gospel Lk 11:47-54
Theme: The Stumbling Block of Hypocrisy

Are you a stumbling block to others who are looking for Christ? This whole week we have been reading from Luke, Chapter 11, in which we find Jesus admonishing the Scribes and Pharisees for their love of the law and lack of faith. These religious leaders were so concerned with following the prescribed laws that they had forgotten why the laws were created in the first place. These laws were meant to be a guide, a pathway to holiness and love of God. Instead of the law being a means to an end (one in God), they became an end to the means (one in law) and a stumbling block to others.

It is hard to blame the Jewish leaders for following the laws so precisely and with such committed authority. After all, as we know from the Old Testament, the natural law of love which precipitated the laws of Moses to help people find God, broke down after Joshua. We read in the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, and up to David in Chronicles, how the Hebrew people failed time and again to follow God’s will and covenant. This cyclic rise and fall of the Hebrew people from poverty, despair, and pleading for God’s mercy, to prosperity, riches, and forgetfulness of God, and back to poverty and despair from God’s punishment, would lead most anyone to resolutely follow the law to avoid harsh punishment. After centuries of this behavior, the Hebrew (Jewish) people learned one thing, that the law would keep them on track and avoid this cycle of abuse in God’s sight. Little did they know that the law itself would become that very abuse in God’s sight.

Many people believe that the churches of today, especially the Catholic Church, are much like the Jewish Pharisees and Scribes, pushing laws and rules on us to keep us in line. They could not be farther from the truth. The difference is that the Church herself is rooted in love and respect of God first and foremost because of her institution by Jesus Himself. The laws and rules within the Church are a means to an end, in that through them we find reliance in God. Whereas the laws of the Scribes and Pharisees were the end to the means in that through them we find reliance on human selfishness and pride. When you really look at the teachings of the Church, you see Christ’s teaching, not that of man as was the case with many Jewish laws.

All of this behavior by the Pharisees and Scribes leads to one main point, that of hypocrisy. They practiced the law but did not live them. They pushed others to follow the laws, yet they did not practice the intent of the laws themselves. This is where the phrase, “practice what you preach” comes from. These leaders were stumbling blocks to those searching for God because they did not practice what they preached.

For you and me, Jesus is telling us not to be a stumbling block to others by being a hypocrite. Yes, what we believe and follow in the Church may be contrary to today’s laws and beliefs in the secular world, but we still must live them out in order to follow that narrow path to God. As the Bishop says to the newly ordained Deacon in the Handing On of the Book of Gospels, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL