Clean your finger before you point at my spots. - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist and philosopher.
Gospel Text: (MT 23:1-12)
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus forgave and accepted many sinners in his lifetime - tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, soldiers, criminals, etc. He was, however, particularly severe on hypocrites, and his most severe criticism was reserved for the Pharisees.
Hypocrisy combines two of the greatest sins – pride and dishonesty. The Pharisees did not want to be criticized and loved to make a show of their goodness. With this attitude, it was difficult for them to accept Jesus and his call to conversion. Jesus emphasized a childlike attitude, openness and complete disposition to the Father. The Pharisees however had their own agenda to protect, and had ceased to give genuine worship to God.
We too run the risk of going through life with a hypocritical attitude – saying one thing and doing another. We may end up with the same mentality as the Pharisees, being blind to our own failings while keeping a watchful and critical eye at the failings of others. We must always be vigilant against this very subtle sin, and ask ourselves constantly: Are we really open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Or are we living our faith in a self-righteous and self-sufficient manner? Whose interests are we really after – God's or ours?