Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”( Matthew 23:27-32)
Strong words in today’s scripture.
Jesus was both saddended and angered by the scribes and the Pharisees. They were intensely religious in their outward observances, but their outward show didn’t match the inner reality of the state of their minds and hearts. They not only neglected the poor and the weak, but they were intolerant towards anyone who challenged their idea of religion.
Jesus chastised them for being double-minded and for demanding from others standards which they refused to satisfy. They professed admiration for the prophets who spoke God’s word by building tombs in their honor. But their outward show of respect did not match their inward refusal to heed the prophets’ warning to turn away from sinful attitudes and from neglecting to lead their people – through teaching and their own example – in God’s way of love and holiness of life.
As Jesus always did, he spoke to their hearts and to ours. He reminds us that true beauty and goodness come from within. The mark of a true Christian is the way we live our lives. After all, Christianity is a way of life as much as it is about precepts and rules.
It begins with how we view the world in which we live. We need to see the world and our self differently and to reflect on what Jesus taught us about what God considers important.
God considers everything valuable.
God does not just value the blockbusters of creation like the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest. God values that shady corner in your back yard. God does not only care about the impressive creatures that God has made like the eagle that soars in the mountains. God also notices and cares for the sparrow who lacks the grandeur of the eagle. For God, value is universal. God values all things including the details of creation.
The meaning for us? We are called to value everything, even the details of our lives. Because the more that we limit value to only certain categories, to only big moments, to only important people, then the majority of our life will be value-less. The more that we are willing to write off a particular moment because it is ordinary, or a particular person because that person is not that interesting, or a particular opportunity because that opportunity does not look like it will produce income, then the majority of our life becomes barren and without joy.
But the more that we can see the world as God sees it, the more that we can see the value in every person and in every moment, the more that we can rejoice in the details of our lives, the more that our whole life is filled with value. Then it is easier for us to recognize the true value that God has given to us.
Allow me to suggest a strategy. Try to notice the value in the details of your life. Take time to appreciate the humming bird buzzing around your garden, the glint in your daughter’s eye, the courage that a co-worker struggling with a difficult burden, the patience of your spouse, or the laughter of a close friend. God notices all these details of life and so should we. The more that we notice the value of a sparrow, the easier it will be to see the greater value that surrounds us. Then it will be easier to see how all of creation has been wonderfully and lovingly made and is fused in with a deep worth and value, a worth and value in which we share.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, open my eyes to see as you see. Incline my heart to acts of love, dispel the anger in my thoughts and my words. Rid me of those past actions which harden my heart and weigh down my spirit. Help me mirror your life in the actions of how I live out your love.”
It’s important for us to ask ourselves to what extent we receive the Word of God as it really is and allow that word to work in us. Sometimes those who are close to the Word of God, who hear it every day, who get into the routine of good religious habits, can became harder soil, thinking we already “know” what we need, even though Christianity isn’t an intellectual exam but a way of life. The key is always whether we enflesh God’s word, whether we bear fruit from what he has revealed to us.