AUGUST 23. Ord Time B. Wk 21. Mon. Mt. 23 13-22
Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.
‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.
‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’
Christ’s major complaint against the Pharisees is contained in the opening of today’s Gospel, namely; because of their teachings and behaviour they were preventing people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven
In the readings on Friday and Saturday last week Christ was being tested by the Pharisees over different matters and today he appears to tire of their hardness of heart; - “‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites; - you blind guides!”
Hypocrite is a strong word to use against a person as it involves classifying them as one who claims to have particular moral beliefs; - but who behaves in a way that shows they are not sincere; - and it is especially strong coming from Jesus Christ who taught both charity and patience, even to sinners.
But equally true is the fact if the Son of God refers to someone as a hypocrite, it means the description is truly valid and deserved. It is also a term that should never be applied to one who claims to be a teacher or ruler; - titles professed and valued by the Pharisees.
Christ gave an example of why he referred to them in this way when he said they “travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte,” a proselyte being a new convert to the Jewish faith; - but when they obtained one; - “you make him twice as fit for hell as you are,” because the new converts were adopting the values and ways of their teachers.
Whenever the Pharisees had tested him in the past, Christ would respond to their queries in a clear and concise manner, but their hearts had become so hardened they were not open to receiving the truths he was revealing; - and it is clear from today’s Gospel Christ’s patience with them was wearing thin.
This is a situation that continues to be common in today’s world, where many are so focused on the values and attractions of this world, their hearts are also closed to the teachings of Christ and to the things of heaven! Let us hope at our judgement the word ‘hypocrite’ cannot be used?
Gospel Acclamation Jn10:27
My sheep listen to my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
First reading 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5,8-10 ·
You broke with idolatry when you were converted to God
From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction. And you observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.