Friday, August 21, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

(Ezekiel 37:1-14; Matthew 22: 32-40)

On a sitcom a long time ago, a man talked about going to see a famous cowboy entertainer.  He says that the organizers of the event set up a pistol drawing contest between and all challengers.  The man boasted because he beat the cowboy star to the draw.  He said that he was able to do it because he was last in line.  By the time he faced off with the cowboy, the entertainer was so tired that he could barely lift the pistol from his holster. 

In today’s gospel Jesus faces a series of challengers.  After cleaning out the temple area in Jerusalem, the different groups come to discredit him.  First, the chief priests and the elders question Jesus about his authority.  He answers them by asking about the authority of John – a controversial issue which the Jewish leaders refuse to touch.  Then the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with the question of paying taxes to Caesar.  Jesus shrewdly tells them that one should give to Caesar’s what belongs to Caesar.  Then the Sadducees propose to Jesus the ridiculous story of seven brothers marrying the same woman in succession to prove that there can be no resurrection from the dead.  Jesus refutes their claim by saying that in the resurrection there is no marriage.  In today’s gospel another pharisee tries to trip Jesus with the question of the greatest commandment.  Jesus deftly answers by saying that the greatest is to love God and the second is to love other humans. Unlike the cowboy entertainer, Jesus never wearies of giving the right answers.

Today the Church honors Pope St. Pius X.  His pontificate was famous for allowing children to receive Holy Communion and for resolving the Modernist crisis.  Modernism was a movement within the Church challenging the authenticity of the gospels.  Historians agree that Pius was heavy-handed in resolving the crisis.  But he did defend the unique greatness of Jesus as today’s gospel shows.  For the superiority of Jesus’ teaching as well as the proclamations made about his life, especially his resurrection from the dead, Jesus is rightly called the uncreated, only begotten Son of God.