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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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Galatians 5:18-25
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Luke 11:42-46

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am i a pharisee?

"You pay tithes on mint and rue and all the garden plants, while neglecting justice and the love of God." —Luke 11:42

The Israelites offered the Lord a tithe of ten percent of their harvested crop, usually wheat or barley. A faithful Israelite farmer tithed annually from the harvest of his field (Dt 14:22; Lv 27:30).

The Pharisees Jesus addressed may not have been farmers. Instead of growing wheat or barley, they grew smaller "garden plants" and herbs such as mint and rue that they could grow in their yard (Lk 11:42). They surpassed the letter of the law by remembering to pay tithes on even the smallest plants grown in their home. Using a modern day parallel, farmers pay taxes on the crops they grow in their large fields. Yet what farmer would consider paying taxes on the cucumbers they grow in their backyard? These Pharisees were law-loving and law-abiding — well beyond the point of what was required or even reasonable. In their zeal for God and His law, they wanted to go well beyond the minimum.

If you are reading this book, you probably also want to go beyond the minimum for God. You may attend Mass more than once a week. You might read Scripture or pray the rosary daily. This is loosely analogous to paying tithes on garden plants. Jesus teaches the Pharisees and us that we must not omit this desire to go well beyond the minimum for God (Lk 11:42). Yet we shouldn't be so zealous for excellence in spiritual acts that we forget the fundamental reason for those acts: "justice and the love of God" (Lk 11:42). "These are the things you should practice, without omitting the others" (Lk 11:42).

Prayer:  Lord, may my desire to serve You not distract me from You.

Promise:  "Since we live by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's lead." —Gal 5:25

Praise:  When Jana gets "caught up" in religious practices, she asks God to remind her of the basics: "the love of God" (Lk 11:42).

Reference:  (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)

Rescript:  †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 6, 2010

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