19 October 2006: Thursday of the 28th Year in Ordinary Time
Luke 11, 45-54: The Scribal Religion
There are three charges against the scribes:
The scribes were experts in the law and they demanded everyone to follow them. But their rules and regulations were inconsistent and ridiculous. For example, one of the forbidden works on the Sabbath was the tying of knots whether it was a sailor, a camel, a driver, or a rope knot. However, a woman might tie the knot in her girdle. Therefore, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well, a rope could not be knotted to it, but a woman’s girdle could, and it could be raised with that!
Let us take another example. The codified law says, “He who carries anything, whether it be in his right hand, or in his left hand, or in his bosom, or on his shoulder is guilty; but he who carries anything on the back of his hand, with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or with his ear, or with his hair or with his money bag turned upside down, or between his money bad and his shirt, or in the fold of his shirt or in his shoe, or in his sandal is guiltless because he does not carry it in the usual way of carrying it out.” We cannot think that God has laid out this law. Much more, it is difficult to believe that this written law demands everyone to follow it religiously.
Second, the scribes and Pharisees admired the great prophets, but they were the ones in history who have persecuted and killed them.
Finally, the scribes prevented people from understanding the scripture because they interpret the scripture in such a way that it is too complicated. The ordinary person will find it difficult to understand the matters of faith.
The Gospel today illustrates that often we demand from people things that we ourselves cannot do. We forget that our credibility lies in the very fact that we can walk our talk --- we do what we preach. Parents for example may demand from their children to be polite in their speech, but if they themselves say bad words (even if it is just an expression), the children will not believe them. Children pick up what they see habitually. Moreover, priests who studied theology may preach using high terminology that the common parishioner cannot fully understand, a discourse that sounds Greek to many, and illustrating a Scriptural point using far-fetched examples. I guess, the objective of many Christians is to bring the faith down to the level of the listeners. And when we do, we don’t snatch from people the opportunity for them to appreciate and understand the Word of God.