“You are not of the world, but you are in the world!”

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Jesus pulls no punches with the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel. The Scribes were the so called “elite” among the Pharisees because of their knowledge of the Mosaic Law and the traditions added on to it. Both prided themselves on their strict, rigorous observance of the law and the traditions. They held themselves apart from the “ordinary” people whom they felt often violated the law and the traditions and they developed a proud superiority complex. Their main goal for such strict observance was not to please God, but to show their own “worthiness.” At times they created their own man made laws, which they observed and criticized those who didn’t. Occasionally, the people weren’t even aware of these man made laws, yet were held accountable. Sometimes the “ordinary Jewish people” were even excommunicated for breaking these laws!

The Scribes and Pharisees despised Jesus from the beginning, mainly because of His mercy and kindness to sinners. Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees because of their observance of the law so much, but because they looked down upon the “ordinary” people–committing the worst sin of all–pride. Jesus criticizes them for it–for their pride, their lack of understanding and lack of forgiveness.

This is a simple gospel message that we have heard, oh, so many times before, but it is full of questions we can ask ourselves. Do we feel superior to our fellow human beings? Do we look down on others that are not as physically attractive or as talented as we are? Do we ignore the disabled, or belittle those not as financially well off as we are?

…And do we find ourselves doing the above even though we attend Mass faithfully each week? Do we give “lip service” at Mass and ignore our God and His teaching the rest of the week? Do we mindlessly mumble prayers at Mass while our hearts and minds are a million miles away? Just what is our reason for coming to Mass?

Another thought that came to me while reading this gospel—-if Jesus was preaching on earth today, would He be so quick to say that “nothing from the outside can defile a person?” What would He say about our vulgar song lyrics, violent movies, pornography? These occasions of sin are all around us. It is almost impossible to escape them and as our senses are assaulted with them, it cannot help but desensitize us to so much of the sin around us.

Two thousand years after Jesus walked this earth, I do think that what enters us can defile us! Certainly how we respond to this desensitization means everything toward our eternal salvation. Do we hold in our hearts and minds the truths and morals taught by our Church? Does our example reflect these morals? Remember Jesus, Himself, said: “You are not of the world, but you are in the world!”

Linda Caminiti