Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
Social scientists note that there are definite stages in the development of human moral character. Children need well-defined rules of behavior with the promise/threat of rewards/punishment as a consequence of misbehavior. With more life-experience and a growing sense of personal selfhood, one tends to balance strict obedience to rules with heightened awareness of the inevitable complexity of real-life situations. One thus feels free to bend the rules occasionally for the sake of what is thought to be a higher good (either for the self or for others).
Self-deception, of course, can always play a role here. But in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus takes that chance in chastising the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy in rigidly conforming to prescribed Jewish rituals simply to gain favor with one another. One should rather seek moral perfection in serving the needs of others as the second reading for this Sunday (James 1:27) recommends.
—Fr. Joseph Bracken, S.J. is an emeritus professor of theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.
Lord, make us mindful of all your gifts.
May we be content and grateful,
giving our love and lives to you all our days.
Fill us with grateful hearts,
and remind us constantly of all you have given us.
May we never take for granted your love
and your generosity and your goodness. Amen.
—The Jesuit prayer teamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!