Monday, 21st Week in Ordinary Time            

            In this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses the harsh rebuke “Woe to you…” seven times in a row in reference to the scribes and Pharisees. He also calls them “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs,” “serpents,” “brood of vipers,” and “murderers.” Jesus could not be any clearer about His wholehearted and harsh rebukes of these religious leaders.

            Why is Jesus so harsh toward the scribes and Pharisees? Because they are doing one of the grave evils one can do. They are misleading people in the name of God. Nothing could be worse.

            Unfortunately, the scribes and Pharisees may not see it this way. But that is precisely one of the main reasons Jesus is so strong in his public rebuke of these religious leaders. His strong rebuke is an act of mercy on his part – going to great lengths to help the scribes and Pharisees to see and realize their need for repentance and conversion. They need to have their twisted malice laid out before them clearly and definitively. And it needs to be laid out for them and also for others to see. This rebuke of Jesus is not spoken in irrational anger or hatred; rather, it is spoken in the hope that these truths will sink in and they will repent. (John Paul Thomas)

            Reflect, today, upon two important lessons from these rebukes.

            First, ponder whether or not you struggle with the ugly sin of self-righteousness. Do you act religious, while at the same time fail to be truly merciful and compassionate? Do you appear to be pious and prayerful but inside filled with judgment and anger?

            Second, be aware that at times the most loving thing you can do for another is to rebuke them. Be careful with this and make sure that any rebuke or correction offered is truly from the Lord. Do not hesitate to do so when, with a well-formed conscience, you discern this to be from God. It may be the best way to win this form of sinner back to Christ.

            I am reminded that it is a grave responsibility to possess any form of leadership. God will hold me responsible and will judge me by how merciful I was. Did I tend those in my charge? Did I use the position for my own agenda? Did I forget that God is always present and waiting for me to act with justice? May God have mercy on me.

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