Throughout the Gospels there are many instances such as the one that we witness in today’s passage from Luke. Here, Jesus is, once again, in the presence of the Pharisees – he has actually been invited to dine in the home of a Pharisee – and He is confronted with their judgment based on the letter of the Law (as they interpret it).

Jesus sees that the Pharisee had taken note that He did not perform the customary ritual washings before reclining at table to dine. In response, Jesus points out the error of the Pharisees in their focus on the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law.

This really is at the heart of Jesus’ ongoing disagreement with the Pharisees. They focus on minute details of particular practices and rituals all while ignoring God’s call for mercy and compassion for the sick, the suffering, and the oppressed.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, the people who refused to help the injured man were doing so not because they didn’t care, but because they were observing the letter of the law regarding purity; they couldn’t touch a bleeding person. The Samaritan, who was not beholden to these laws, actually fulfilled God’s Law by helping someone who was in need.

There is a part of human nature that can tend to focus on tiny details all while missing the big picture. Let us pray, today and always, that all the things that we do in life, whether they be mundane or great, may focus on the two most important laws – love of God and love of neighbor – and may our doing so bring a spirit of purity to our lives and our souls, helping us to become the good people that God made each of us to be. +

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