One of the least appealing vices in American Society is hypocrisy. This may come from the strong Judeo-Christian force that shaped our nation, a tradition that viewed honest and forthright relations between the believer and God and with the believer’s neighbor. In the Old Testament, the prophet Amos railed against those who considered themselves faithful to the covenant and yet abandoned the poor. The prophet Isaiah was no less judgmental of those who said they were following the Law of the Lord but in fact were dismissive of its practical applications. The Gospel today tells how Jesus calls out the hypocritical nature of some who use the law to their advantage while ignoring the spirit in which it was originally written.
The Jesuits made quite a career of discerning when a law could be “broken” and when a different course of action is appropriate in a certain circumstance. This was known as casuistry and how the Jesuits defended and taught their various positions concerning the ultimate cause or law one should follow produced no end of criticism. A while back there was a popular expression that supposedly could solve every decision: What would Jesus do (WWJD)? Frequently, this standard of judgement decayed into what a certain person or organization thought Jesus would do instead of what Jesus actually would have done and paid little attention to the fullest implication of the law or desired activity.
Today’s gospel provides us with no little challenge with its recognition that there are laws but at times we break laws for an apparent greater good. This discernment as to the correct course of action, as the great Jesuit authors have always admonished, takes place after a profound and serious conversation and prayer with those sources and the teachings of the Church. Following our path may at times seem to be correct, but we must be certain that the path we follow is illumined by other lights than just our own.