Monday of the Twenty-FirstWeek in Ordinary Time
Woe to you, hypocrites
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven 8 before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it. Mt 23,13-22
Jesus’s opposition against the scribes and Pharisees is radical and can be found throughout the Gospel. In today’s passage, he challenges them openly: it is a public accusation, measured by a long succession of “Woe to you”. Jesus accuses them of being hypocrites, to prevent people from entering the kingdom of heaven, to be foolish and blind, to comply with the least requirements of the law and disregard the most important ones, to wander the whole sea and land to make one single proselyte, successively making it like them, a hypocrite. They are accused of caring more for the appearance in order to neglect the substance of the law, and Jesus condemns the constant search for vainglory, prestige, ambition and privileges. These are the sins of mankind at all times, not only of the scribes and Pharisees: we must be aware of and fight them in the light of Jesus Christ’s gospel, whose mandate is to be his witnesses. In order to be able to be it in a believable and effective way, one must keep away from care for the appearance only as well as the exaggerate display of faith. The latter one should naturally reveal itself through the words and acts of life, which you can do if you do not repress the lifestyle and habits: since we start a meal at home with a sign of the cross, we must do it with discretion at the restaurant too. One day, one of the gentlemen with whom I was at the table during a wedding banquet asked me: “Why have you started with the sign of the cross?”. I replied: “Because I feel free to thank God for the providence that I find on my dish. If I didn’t do it, I would feel awkward to you and insincere to the Lord”. We talked about matters of faith throughout the meal, we became friends and now he also starts the meal with a sign of the cross.