“Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest people , but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The Scribes and Pharisees of the scriptures have been painted as the baddies of the Bible. It’s true they often came into conflict with Jesus and on several occasions (including in today’s gospel) he spoke harshly to them, reprimanding them for their hypocrisy.
Perhaps we have picked up from childhood fairy-tales the narrow vision that sees the world and all that is in it including people, as either good or bad. Unfortunately we carry this simplistic thinking into our adult life ignoring the fact that there is good and bad in every person, and while I like to think of myself as one of the goodies, in my most honest moments I know that inside myself I harbour my own fair share of “hypocrisy and lawlessness”.
The “Pharisees” in today’s world would be like the good law-abiding religious people since Pharisees were not “bad” people by any definition. They were zealous and spared no effort or expense to keep every dotted “i” and crossed ‘t” of the Ten Commandments.
Pope Francis has often used Scribes and Pharisees as metaphors for what is not good, not only in the world, but helping us to focus on what is not so good in each of us.
The pope reflecting on today’s gospel warns us: ” Be careful around those who are rigid. Be careful around Christians – be they laity, priests, bishops – who present themselves as so “perfect,” rigid. Be careful. There’s no Spirit of God there. They lack the spirit of liberty.”
And in case we are forgetting that when I point my index finger with accusation at someone else I have three other fingers on that hand pointing back towards me, Pope Francis challenges each of us:
“Do I seek to look only at appearance, and not change my heart?
Do I not open my heart to prayer, to the liberty of prayer, the liberty of almsgiving, the liberty of works of mercy?”
Am I looking only at others and forgetting to seek a healthy “inner life”
Do I seek to look only at appearance, and not change my heart?”
- Click this image below for a simple morning and evening reflection. It might be ideal on waking in the morning before getting out of bed, or last thing at night after turning out the light.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your initials to join those taking these few days as a simple retreat-in-daily-life, and to invite others to keep you in prayer. Click the image to enlarge.