Rom 2:1-11; Ps 62:2,3,6,,7,9; Lk 11:42-46
There’s a difference between being a rock and being hard of heart. We are summoned to find our rest only in God. The LORD is our only rock and salvation. His love alone is our security. If our hearts are at rest in Him, if the LORD is our rock, we are confident and unafraid. Whatever happens to us, we are safe and undisturbed. We know there is always hope, and our strength abounds in the LORD. If we trust in the LORD at all times, if we pour out our hearts before him, we will find in him our salvation, our stronghold, our refuge. This is the kind of joy that Saint Ignatius of Antioch displayed as he approached his own martyrdom. Saint Ignatius writes to all his brothers and sisters in the Church asking for them not to stand in his way. He pleads with them to let him become flour ground between the teeth of the lions. He is confident and unafraid. He is a rock of solid faith because his trust is in the LORD alone. Saint Paul assures the believers in Rome that this kind of heroic faith is possible for both Jew and Gentile because the Lord Jesus is the One who suffered and died for all. Indeed, “There is no partiality with God.” The Lord Jesus corrects the Phraisees by reminding them that tithes are not more important than the love for God.
In the mixed community of Rome, Saint Paul reminds those favored with the law and the prophets have no right to condemn their brothers and sisters who have not been so blessed. Gentile converts and Jewish converts both rely upon the same mercy of the LORD. Without mercy neither of them would know salvation. It seems that some of the self-righteous Jewish converts were ready to condemn their Gentile brothers and sisters. Saint Paul reminds them that no one will escape the judgment of God. Moral perfection eludes both Jew and Gentile alike. He has a challenging question, that still pricks our consciences today, “Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?” Not showing our brothers and sisters the same kindness, forbearance, and patience that we have received only evokes the wrath of God. The unity and charity of the whole community of believers in Rome demands that barriers of race and religion crumble before the just judgment of God. Just like our ancestors in the Church of Rome, we cannot reserve our good works only for those who are like us in heritage or custom. Saint Paul rubs it in a little when he says, “Yes, affliction and distress will come upon everyone who does evil, Jew first and then Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.” This Pauline rhetorical move has been expressed elsewhere in the gospel. It is not unlike: More is expected from the elder brothers and sisters; more is expected from those to whom much is given.
The Lord Jesus does not hold back. Today’s gospel is full of warnings. Twice the Lord Jesus cries out: “Woe to you Pharisee!” Once he enjoins the other self-important ones in the crowd: “Woe also to you scholars of the law!” The Lord Jesus is not out to win friends and influence people. He is out to challenge those hearts that are full of themselves and have no room for compassion. He loves them so much that he accepts them just as they are, but he loves them too much to leave them just as they are. Saint Paul confronts the same kind of self-righteousness among the Christians in Rome. We, too, have to hear this word of challenge. Paying tithes is necessary to keep the community alive and healthy, but such can never excuse us from taking our precious time and giving it away to listen attentively to anyone in pain. Enjoying greetings of respect is part of being polite, but such can never excuse us from holding condemnation and disdain for brothers or sisters in our hearts. Sharing the truth of God’s revelation is essential to being a faithful witness, but such can never excuse us from compassion and mercy with anyone who struggles to be faithful or morally upright. We, who have been given again and again the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus, have we any excuse for not becoming what we eat?