Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for my sake, will find it.
Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes him who sent me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”
When Jesus had finished giving his twelve disciples these instructions, he went on from there, to teach and to proclaim his message in their towns.
It is ironic that by sheer coincidence, the first reading (which is the usual reading for the Monday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time) should coincide this year with our remembering St. Benedict. Why ironic? Because Benedict’s entire life as well as the life of all his innumerable followers is centered on the liturgy (the Eucharist and the Holy Office sung in choir), whereas in the first reading Isaiah condemns the liturgical practices of his contemporaries!
Perhaps this is as good an opportunity as any to set the record straight, because some Christians have distorted views on the importance of the liturgy, particularly of the Mass. They believe that the Mass should be considered their most important duty, a goal for which everything else is a means. But the prophet Isaiah reminds us that, without social justice, liturgical practices are an abomination to God. And he is absolutely right. At the Last Judgment, Christ will not ask us how many Masses we have attended, but how many brothers and sisters we fed, visited, consoled, helped in various ways. Mass is a means to become a more loving person, not an end in itself. The end in itself is always to love. Nothing is more important than love.
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