Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Optional Memorial)
. . . tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb.
According to the Law of Moses, Jewish families were expected to give 10 percent of all their produce and possessions as an offering to the Lord. This tithe was used to help support the Levites, who offered worship in the Temple, and to help care for the poor of the land. Nobody in Israel should go hungry, and it was up to everyone to make sure that didn’t happen. This was part of God’s command to the Israelites to love their neighbors as themselves.
So why was Jesus criticizing these Pharisees? They were paying their tithes, weren’t they?
Well, yes and no. Many scholars believe that these Pharisees were indeed giving a tenth of their kitchen seasonings but not much more. They were doing just enough to look good, but that was all. Just enough to appear to be obeying the Law.
This was Jesus’ constant concern about his opponents: by focusing so much on God’s Law, they lost sight of the people that the Law was meant to protect. Nobody can live off of garden herbs! But that didn’t matter; they just wanted to satisfy the bare minimum.
In an April 2016 address, Pope Francis discussed this very issue. He cautioned us against seeing almsgiving as a “burden or an annoyance from which to free ourselves in haste.” Rather, he said, we should “stop and look in the face, in the eyes of that person who is asking me” (Jubilee Audience, April 9, 2016).
See the people you are helping. Focus on the child of God in front of you. Do this, and you will end up obeying God’s commands more fully than if you were to focus only on the commandments themselves.
According to St. Paul, “The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). Generosity. Kindness. Compassion. Forgiveness. This is how we fulfill God’s laws.
Jesus also told us, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This is the beauty of the gospel message and the heart of all God’s commands: by focusing on loving our brothers and sisters, we don’t just fulfill God’s laws; we also meet Jesus!
“Lord, teach me how to love.”
Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 9
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