Law versus Devotion


Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 468
Gal 5:1-6 & Lk 11:37-41

Lk 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken,a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.He entered and reclined at table to eat.The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,inside you are filled with plunder and evil.You fools!Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?But as to what is within, give alms,and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
          Pharisees were followers of law, and in many instances they were writers or interpreters of law, which led to enforcement of law. What is law? Merriam-Webster defines law as:

The binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority and the control brought about by the existence or enforcement of such law. They are “a rule or order that it is advisable or obligatory to observe” and “something compatible with or enforceable by established law”

          Where is God mentioned, where in the law does God come into play? On one hand a law can be followed to bring a person closer to God and on another the law can be followed simply to avoid the repercussions by the enforcement of that law. Was Jesus against law? I think that answer depends on a few things. Jesus was likely against the legalities of laws that when broken, the enforcement of laws strengthen the position of a political or ruling party, especially when those laws fall under the guise of religion. That was many of the laws of the Pharisees. They were laws arguably demonstrating obedience to God that really had little to do with God. What they did do was strengthen groups of men. Washing before a meal was a ritual prescribed by law, as were the laws prescribed for the cleaning of utensils. If there are laws, law enforcement always follows close behind.Again, was Jesus against laws? It depends how you look at it. Take the prescribed washings, but instead of viewing them as a prescribed law, look at them differently. Look at them not as a law, but devotion. What is devotion? Devotion is defined as “religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation” or “an act of prayer or private worship.” If a person took the same action as a personal religious devotion as to honor God, perhaps Jesus would not have had such harsh words. In doing so as a devotion it indeed would be done externally (an action) to cleanse their interior (the soul). In that way the action is not done for man, but given to God.

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