But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, `If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.( Matthew 23:13-22)
Today’s Gospel presents a stern Jesus who calls out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Following His scathing denouncement of the Pharisees and scribes, Christ wrathfully indicts them with seven woes for their unfaithfulness. “Woes” are a declaration of doom, curses that warn the unrepentant of God’s coming judgment.
What Jesus is attacking is not so much a particular people as certain attitudes of mind. And these attitudes can be found just as easily within the Christian community of that time and every period since then.
Jesus calls out the fact that the Pharisees had no hesitation in drawing up rules which are difficult for people to carry out but they do absolutely nothing to help in their implementation. In fact, they devised ways to get around them subtly. We see that even today where people of authority set up standards but don’t live them. This is the double standard, where people set the rules which they themselves do not keep: “Do as I say, not as I do” or “You will do it because I tell you to do it.”
The scribes and Pharisees lacked the authenticity and rectitude of conscience that were needed to please God. As followers of Christ, we need to let our behavior, our word, and our conscience be in harmony with God. We have been given a conscience to help us do that. Conscience is that secret sanctuary in which where we are alone with God and we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the depths of our heart. To violate that conscience, that is, to go against what we know to be true, is to deny ourselves what is most important to our salvation.
Jesus wants us to be sincere in all we say and do, so that the integrity of our lives may be apparent to all who see us. Think of those Christians you admire and use as role models. They are people who are simple and transparent, can be taken at face value, because to be devious or calculating, it never occurs to them to be devious or calculating, or to be in any way false or insincere.
Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, the greatest respect we give is to the one who serves, – the person who uses his or her gifts for the benefit of others, whose whole life is dedicated to making this world a better place for others to live in. This is the model to which we are called. Our faith calls us to live in such a way that our interior faith is matched by our exterior conduct. No more. No less.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, give me the grace of real sincerity of heart in dealing with you and with others. Teach me to give my word and mean it with all my heart.”
How do we shut the door of God’s kingdom in our own personal lives? We close it through hypocrisy, stubborn pride, disobedience, and ignorance. We do it by picking and choosing Christian principles that suit us. But He is calling us to a higher standard. He is calling us to reject the world’s way of thinking forming the way we think, act, and speak . Instead, we are called to allow God’s word of truth to form the way we think, act, and speak.