Daily Homily: Woe to You, Scribes and Pharisees, You Hypocrites

Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,16-18
Psalm 128:1-2,4-5
Matthew 23:27-32

Today’s Gospel finishes our reading of the seven woes pronounced by Jesus upon the scribes and Pharisees. Each one of them reveals an aspect of their hypocrisy. On the outside, the scribes and pharisees present themselves as: authentic teachers about God and his law; untiring in their zeal to make converts; men of truth and of their word; men who faithfully fulfill even the minutiae of the law; men of purity and holiness; upright men; and defenders of God’s messengers.

In truth, the scribes and Pharisees are only wearing a mask. Instead of teaching the way that leads to heaven, they teach in such a way that keeps them out and hinders the entry of others into God’s kingdom. Instead of bringing the nations to worship the one, true God, they introduce them into a dead religion. Instead of speaking the truth, they find ways to lie under the appearance of solemn piety. Instead of fulfilling the essence and heart of the law, they neglect this and focus exclusively on the minor details. Instead of living a holy life from within, they mask the evil intentions of their heart with external observance. Instead of a life of righteousness, they live a contradiction between a beautiful exterior and a filthy interior. Finally, they think they are better than their ancestors, who persecuted and killed the prophets, but in actuality they are about to condemn the Son of God to death.

What is more, the Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of their own faults. They accuse him of blasphemy and false doctrine. They attack his disciples and try to sow doubt about Jesus. They accuse Jesus of working by the power of the devil , the “father of lies”. They point out when Jesus breaks the Sabbath rest and when his disciples do not fast as evidence against Jesus’ teaching. They accuse Jesus’ disciples of impurity since they neglect the ritual washing before meals. They accuse Jesus of eating with the unrighteous, with sinners and tax collectors. Finally, they are plotting to put Jesus to death.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians is one of encouragement, hope and consolation. Confusion about the timing of Christ’s second coming “has led certain believers into strange and disorderly conduct. We can infer from Paul’s comments in 3:6-15 that some in Thessalonica were so convinced that Jesus would return at any moment that they had quit their jobs and stopped working for a living” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). This is not the right way to live. Christ’s Kingdom is present, yet grows until the end of time when Jesus returns in glory. We need to live in such a way that we are always ready and always prepared for our definitive encounter with him.

Paul criticizes the behavior of those who refuse to work and “seems annoyed that his readers have not heeded his earlier appeals to ‘work’ diligently (1 Thess 4:11) and ‘admonish the idle’ (1 Thess 5:14). The congregation is charged with addressing this problem decisively but charitably (2 Thess 3:14-15). In Paul’s mind, these freeloaders who live on the charity of others will better prepare themselves for Christ’s return by working than by sitting around waiting” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).

The filial, loving obedience of Jesus Christ, not the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, is our model for Christian life. As Christians, we are called to teach, through our words and actions, in the name of Christ. We are sent out to the ends of the earth to preach and baptize. Every word of ours should be full of truth and seek the glory of God. We need to live according to the new law of charity, moved by the Holy Spirit. There should be a conformity between our actions and purity of heart. We are righteous insofar as we believe in Christ, welcome God’s grace and work with charity and love. We are called to defend the faith and spread the faith as messengers of God’s word.

Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com</a>

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Jason Mitchell

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