To Church on Sunday, To Hell on Monday

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Word Alive — Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD (From his Saturday column in “Manila Bulletin”)

February 12, 2023 / 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once a Jew was arguing with a Christian. “Your whole religion is based on ours,” the Jew said. “Why, you even took the 10 Commandments from us.”

“We may have taken them,” said the Christian, “but you certainly can’t say we’ve kept them.”

Christ teaches that what’s crucial is not just possessing or knowing the Commandments but fulfilling them.

* * *

Laws and rules are important but when imposed rigidly, they do not only become burdensome but also ruin the real spirit of the law.

Contrary to the onerous interpretations imposed by the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders), Jesus went beyond the letter of the law.

* * *

For instance, the scribes and Pharisees during Christ’s time were unbending in observing the law of the Sabbath (Saturday). Any kind of activities, like cooking or staying outside the house, much less, chatting with friends, were forbidden.

But the Lord allowed exceptions to the law like healing the sick or doing good deeds. He said, “The Sabbath is made for men and not men for the Sabbath.”

* * *

For Catholics, it may not be the laws and religious rituals like those of the Pharisees but the Catholic sacraments and devotions.

For instance, many churchgoers attend Sunday Mass and receive Holy Communion, and that’s good since it’s fulfilling God’s command. However, they neglect to do the other part of the religious obligation, like doing acts of mercy, justice, honesty. They think that’s not a part of religious duties.

* * *

To illustrate: there’s a wealthy matron who employs many workers in her various companies. She goes to Mass every day and receives Holy Communion. But here’s the rub: the employees had been groaning over their low wages. They grumble and remark, “Ang boss namin ay dasal ng dasal, masama naman ang asal.” (Our employer is always praying but her conduct is unjust).

* * *

There are also pious relatives who are not in talking terms and avoiding one another; in short, they cannot forgive one another. But remember Jesus’ strong words, “If you don’t forgive your enemy, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you either” (Mt 18,35).

* * *

Then there are regular Mass goers but when they leave the church, they forget to live the Christian values they hear from the teachings and homilies. As one writer puts it: “To Church on Sunday, to Hell on Monday.”

* * *

Jesus Christ says, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice for the Son of Man is the Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mt. 12,7).

LET’S ASK OURSELVES: We may condemn the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy but do we behave like them, too? Do we express our love for God at Mass or our devotions, but despise, cheat or refuse to forgive our fellowmen?

Jesus warns us, “If your justice does not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 5,20).

* * *

LAUGH WITH GOD. Parish priest to a young man: “Robert, I’ve not seen you in church for a long time. What happened?

Reply: “Father, I’m turned off by so many hypocrites there.” “Robert, don’t worry,” the priest said. “There’s still a place for one more (hypocrite).”

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