In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds the Pharisees about the imbalance between their  following rules and rituals and their acting with mercy, integrity, and justice. It reminds me of a quote from Pope Francis’ 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:

Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! […] It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis continues to warn us of an over-reliance on ideologies and superficial programs for happiness. The Gospel invites us out of a programmed and restricted reality and into the unpredictable place of mercy, love, and justice—virtues which soften and strengthen our hearts while widening our limited grasp of the moral world.

What gift can you ask God to give you, so that you might smell the fresh “fragrance of the Gospel” in your life?

—Michael Lamanna, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Northeast Jesuit province, just completed his philosophy studies at Loyola University Chicago.