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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Knowing their malice, Jesus said, 'Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?'" (Mt. 22:15-21)

Do you have malice in your heart towards God's creation? Seriously, this quote, "Knowing their malice," by Jesus when ascertaining the intent of the Pharisees' disciples, prompted me to reflect deeply inwardly. Ponder for a moment; Jesus, Light from light, expels the darkness dwelling in the Pharisees' disciples' hearts. Their question towards Jesus was patronizing. They called him teacher when actually, these disciples were loyal to the Pharisees' instruction. Did the Pharisees' disciples believe that Jesus was the truth and lead the way of God? Maybe not. On the other hand, you could say they were correct; Jesus is true to his word as he discerned their hypocrisy as the scripture said, "Knowing their malice."

Here, I slumped into my chair and mused over this question, "Do I have malice in my heart?" As much as I wanted to deny having malice residing in my heart, the notion of Jesus knowing the malice of the Pharisees' disciples' malice jolted me. The Holy Spirit then reminded me of David's words, "you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 139:2). This passage speaks to the "All-Knowing God," he is Omniscience. There is no way one can cover the malice lodging in their heart. God knows all things. No wonder the scripture said, "Knowing their malice."

Therefore, when studying this idea of malice, we need to examine our intentions towards creation internally. Saint Thomas said, "it often happens that man acts with a good intention, but without spiritual gain, because he lacks a goodwill." The Pharisees' disciples exhibited no effort of goodwill towards Jesus. Their intentions would not profit spiritual gain because they "plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech." How absurd, humanity trying to entrap the Logos, the second part of the Trinity, with speech!

Consequently, walking this path as a disciple of Jesus means I must be aware of my intentions. I must question myself, "Will my intentions give me spiritual gain or personal monetary gain?" And the only way to know for sure if I am experiencing spiritual gain is to model the teachings of Jesus, "seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness" (Mt. 6:33). The final words from our gospel said that Jesus showed the Pharisees' disciples a coin. He told them what belongs to Caesar, give it to him. But what belongs to God, give it to God. However, for us to give God what belongs to God, we must seek his kingdom, his righteousness, which will lead to goodwill for humanity. Have a talk with Jesus, he tell you that giving to God is a life-long practice.

"I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rm. 12:1-2).

Author: Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS

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