Scrupulosity

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Readings for Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time

Saint Peter Claver, Priest – USA Memorial

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.  Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”  Luke 6:1-2

Talk about being petty!  Here the disciples were hungry, they most likely had been walking for some time with Jesus and came upon some wheat and picked it to eat as they walked.  And they were condemned by the Pharisees for doing this very normal action.  Did they really break the law and offend God by picking and eating this grain?

Jesus’ response makes it clear that the Pharisees are quite confused and that the disciples did nothing wrong.  But this passage does give us an opportunity to reflect upon one spiritual danger that some fall into at times.  It’s the danger of scrupulosity. 

Now, if you are one who tends to be scrupulous you are probably already beginning to be scrupulous right now about being scrupulous.  And the more you read on you may be tempted to feel scrupulous about feeling scrupulous about being scrupulous.  And the cycle can go on and on with this struggle.

We do not know if this is the case, but if one or more of the disciples struggled with scrupulosity and then heard the Pharisees condemn them for eating the grain, they may have felt immediate remorse and guilt over their actions.  They would have started to fear that they were guilty of breaking God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath.  But their scrupulosity has to be seen for what it is and they have to recognize the trigger that tempted them toward scrupulosity.

The “trigger” that tempted them toward scrupulosity is an extreme and erroneous view of the law of God as presented by the Pharisees.  Yes, God’s law is perfect and must always be followed down to the last letter of the law.  But for those who struggle with scrupulosity, the law of God can easily become distorted and exaggerated.  Human laws and human misrepresentations of the law of God can cause confusion.  And, in the Scripture above, the trigger was the arrogance and harshness of the Pharisees.  God was not offended in any way by the disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees, therefore, were attempting to impose a burden on the disciples that was not from God.

We, too, can be tempted to look at God’s law and will in a scrupulous way.  Though many people do the opposite (are too lax), some do struggle with worrying about offending God when He is not offended at all.

Reflect, today, upon your own struggle with scrupulosity.  If this is you, know that God wants to free you from these burdens.

Lord, help me to see Your law and will in the light of truth.  Help me to shed all misconceptions and misrepresentations of Your law in exchange for the truths of Your perfect love and mercy.  May I cling to that mercy and love in all things and above all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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