Tuesday, 21st Week in Ordinary Time

            “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.”

            There were some significant differences between how the scribes and Pharisees viewed the life of faith and how Jesus viewed the life of faith. Let me emphasize three points…

  • The religion of the scribes and Pharisees valued rules over relationships. Jesus was passionate about relationships. He has been teaching about loving God and loving one’s neighbor. He is trying to tell us that faith is not about rules; it is about a relationship. It is about falling passionately in love with God. Once you know God and love God, then you will be inspired to live a pure and holy life. Following the rules will come naturally.
  • The religion of the scribes and Pharisees valued appearances over authenticity. For them, looking good was more important than doing good. Everything they were doing was just for a show –meant to win the admiration of other people. Their primary concern was what others would think and say about the things they did. Jesus warns us of the danger of worshipping God with exterior rites while not conforming our life to the will of God. Rites and pious devotions often serve as a cover for impiety in the heart. True purity is that of the heart, and rites of purification are useless if we forget their purpose – which is, to invite us to rid our heart of its vices and attachments. Purification is important not for external appearance alone but for our internal disposition: conversion from sin.
  • The religion of the scribes and Pharisees valued respectability over righteousness. According to Jesus, they “love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces…” Some of the scribes and Pharisees were using their religious position as a status symbol, which commands ‘respectability’. We must be clear about the difference between a respectable Christian and a true Christian. Jesus makes that very distinction by saying: “The greatest among you must be your servant.” “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Let us pray that we may value relationships over rules…authenticity over appearances…righteousness over respectability.

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