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By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

10/29/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

How do we avoid developing a critical spirit?  The first step is to cultivate an interior attitude of thankfulness for the graces God has given us.

Jesus teaching in the temple.

Jesus teaching in the temple.

Article Highlights

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/29/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Luke 13, daily homily, year of faith, healing, Jesus, critical spirit, sugar land, St. Theresa parish, Fr. Reynolds


SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online) The faithful observance of the sabbath is at the heart of Jewish religious and cultural identity.  The holiness of that day derives from the sanctification of time through God's creative activity.  In the first creation account, the sacred author characterizes the seventh day of the week as especially holy to God, "because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation" (Genesis 2:3).

As a devout Jew, Jesus observed the sabbath conscientiously.  Describing the usual practice of Jesus, St. Luke writes, "He went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day (Luke 4:16).  As the eternal Son of the Father, the Lord must have felt especially at home in the synagogue and the Temple, the places in ancient Israel where his divine Father was worshipped and glorified (cf. Luke 2:49).  

One sabbath, while teaching in a synagogue, Jesus heals a woman who had suffered for eighteen years (cf. Luke 13:10ff).  The fact that this miraculous work took place on this particular day stirs the ire of the synagogue leader.  "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day," he says (Luke 13:14). 

This official, though misguided in his application of Scriptural principles, had a point.  In the Decalogue, God commands his Chosen People to respect the special character of the sabbath. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. in it you shall not do any work" (Exodus 20:8,10).  While trying to uphold the dignity of the sabbath, however, the synagogue official mistakenly presumes that God's sabbath commandment prohibited even works of charity and mercy.  

How could the leader of the synagogue fall into this error?  Perhaps there are two reasons.  First, his respect for the Divine Law may have led him to regard the Commandments as petrified, lifeless constraints rather than as a path to authentic flourishing.  His diligence for upholding the integrity of the Law blinded him to the virtue of charity to which the Commandments are ordered and from which they draw their meaning (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Luke 10:27).

Second, it seems as though this synagogue official suffered from an overly critical outlook.  Someone with a critical spirit tends to look for what is evil, while ignoring what is good.  They also tend to elevate their private judgment to the level of absolute truth, without considering that they could be wrong in their point-of-view.  Because this man was too ready to see a supposed transgression, he was blind the grace of God at work. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote, "To criticize, to destroy, is not difficult; the clumsiest laborer knows how to drive his pick into the noble and finely-hewn stone of a cathedral.  To construct - that is what requires the skill of a master" (The Way, no. 456).

How do we avoid developing a critical spirit?  The first step is to cultivate an interior attitude of thankfulness for the graces God has given us.  A humble spirit of gratitude for God's blessings will help us to be conscious of our total dependence upon God, seeing the good in our lives as a pure gift from our Heavenly Father.

Next, we must strive to acknowledge the blessings that God has given others and to delight in them. Rather than complaining that Jesus had not healed them, those who witnessed the miraculous cure of the crippled woman "rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by" Jesus (Luke 13:17).  We want to do the same.

Finally, a critical spirit can be tempered by always contributing to the weight of good in the world, with regard to every person and situation.  This doesn't mean ignoring real instances of evil or injustice, but in striving to conquer them, with God's help. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

We exist "for the praise of God's glory" (cf. Ephesians 1:6).  May the Blessed Mother intercede for us, and lead us in glorifying God in every moment of our lives. 

Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston.  You may visit the parish website at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com. 

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
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