Today’s Gospel: Matthew 23:27-32
Yikes! Jesus had some pretty harsh words for the Pharisees, didn’t he? For the longest time, I wondered why those Pharisees were such awful people, and especially why anyone would listen to them. Yet, in another place in the Gospels, Jesus admonishes His disciples to listen to the Pharisees, for they had a legitimate authority over the children of Israel.
What many people don’t realize is exactly who these Pharisees were in ancient Israel. When Jacob’s children broke the Covenant with God and were sent to exile, there were a core of people who kept the faith. These were the first of the remnant to return to the Promised Land from Persia. Even in a foreign land, there were those who kept God’s Laws. The leaders of those people – the men who encouraged Israel’s children to be faithful to The Lord and not abandon the faith of their fathers – were the Pharisees. Without the spiritual guidance of the Pharisees, the Israelites might have lost their way completely.
So the Pharisees were responsible for keeping the Covenant alive in times of great turmoil among foreign people who tempted God’s Chosen People with idolatry on every side. Their strict adherence to the Law was a blessing to the Israelites.
And yet they often were so strict as to limit access to God’s enduring mercy towards His people. Jesus saw this as hypocritical – these men should have known better, for the Scriptures speak of God’s love and mercy constantly! And by withholding love from people – or making them believe that God would not forgive them – they were filling their own souls with awful darkness and filth.
This is a real tough Gospel to ponder in relation to my own life, to be honest. How often am I uncharitable towards someone else because of some perceived shortcoming when I have my own problems? How often do I put on the face of a pious woman when inside my heart is rotten with sin? “Look at me! I’m a Dominican! I’m so awesome because I’m getting close to God! Look at that person over there – he looks like he’s daydreaming during the Consecration!” Oh, how often I play the part of the Pharisee in the Temple, looking down on the poor sinner in the back row!
As a Christian, do I put on a good face to hide my shortcomings? How often do I look down on someone for their transgressions, but fail to see my own sins and shortcomings? Do I lack charity towards others that I would expect for myself?
Lord, I don’t want to look down on my brothers and sisters! Teach me to keep my eyes on my own work and to simply pray for others instead of passing judgement. Help me to see others and love them as You see and love them.
Copyright 2014 Christine Johnson