|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not How We Look But How We Act
There is a story of a man who was hired at Apple Inc., while Steve Jobs was still alive. He got one of these large offices at the corner of the building and he was really proud of his new position. He was in his new office sorting out all his stuff and he sees one of the maintenance staff at his door. He quickly picks up the phone and says, “Uh-huh, yes Steve. Yes Steve, uh-huh, I will, yes, yes, thank you Steve. Thank you for your trust in me, I will do that,” and he hangs up. Then he looks at the door and says, “Come on in” to the man waiting in the doorway. The maintenance man walks in and says, “Sir, I’m here to install your phone line.” 1 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11 NAB
Sometimes we are so caught up in trying to impress people that we forget that it can be pretty shallow. Most times, even if we are not caught in an obvious way, people are not really that impressed. We are so caught-up in how we appear that we spend too much time focusing on the outside and we forget that our intentions on the inside are more important.
In the ancient times the people were also caught up in this; indeed, the Pharisees and the scribes were very much caught up in it. The Pharisees and the scribes were good people, at least they were trying to be. Their understanding of the law was to take it and live it by living every single letter of the law. Jesus’ complaining today is not so much the letter of the law but the spirit of the law behind it. Put another way, it is not enough just to do good, we must have the intention of doing good in our heart not just to be seen doing good. It is not a matter of just looking good, it is about doing what we believe is the right thing in our heart.
To that end we want to be careful not to fall into the fallacy of how the Pharisees and the Scribes saw their God. They looked at their God as a lawgiver and they were the law keepers. They were like a spy satellite checking and scoping out every little thing we did and marking it down for evidence. As if somehow God is this distant figure who pronounces judgment and condemnation. Jesus comes along to say yes, there is the law, and that we should abide by everything that they say just not follow their example. In other words, it is not the law that is wrong it is the interpretation. We have to learn to do the right thing for the right reasons. Part of the way to help us is our image of God. We should not see our God as a spy satellite in our world or as that of a lawgiver and we as the law keepers. But rather a God who loves us more than anything.
1 Adapted from Deacon Dick Folger, “Celebration: An Ecumenical Worship Resource,” (Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter Company, Inc., October 30, 2011).