Sometimes at the age of three, my nephew was less than ideal in his behavior. He was picky about what he ate; he would get cranky when he was tired; he vied to be the center of attention. Yet, he had admirable traits. He was trusting and open, unpretentious, without hardness of heart. As he has grown into his teens, he has become cautious and suspicious. He is beginning to harden his heart.

In our Gospel today, Jesus exposes the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts. Throughout his life, Jesus modeled how to approach people and situations with a wide embrace of love and care rather than hardness of heart. He saw in every person and every situation an opportunity to lead people to union with God and one another.

In the deepest recesses of our hearts, we all desire to live in union with one another as God intends. This Gospel challenges us to move from our hardness of heart to the wide embrace Jesus models. We who are open to Jesus’ embrace learn to embrace others with his trust and goodness, and thus grow in peace and unity with one another.

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