Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!"

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy. – Pope Francis

Gospel Text: (MT 23:23-26)
Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word for "actor." Jesus' main issue with many of the scribes and Pharisees was the incoherence of their life. They were pretenders, doing things for others to see and admire, focused just on the externalism of good deeds while their hearts were wicked.

They did not practice the word of God they preached. They wore masks, keeping all the proper outside appearances while hiding moral cesspools on the inside.

By his brutal candor, Jesus is trying to call them to conversion in terms that will jackhammer through the “pride-induced concrete” that their hearts have become. He calls them to cleanse their insides. He summons them to do more than keep appearances, more than getting an Academy Award for playing someone holy, but rather to come to him for healing so that they could change from blind guides to those who walk by faith and lead others into the kingdom.

How does this story relate to our current culture today?

«Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified» (Mt 23:26). How true this is for each of us! We know how personal cleanliness makes us feel fresh and vibrant. Even more so in the spiritual and moral realm, our inner self/spirit, if clean by making a good Sacramental Confession, will shine forth in good deeds and actions, that «will glorify God and render him true homage» (Jn 5:23).

Let us look at the bigger picture of love, justice and faith and not settle for the smaller nitty-gritty which consume our time and make us small and petty. Let us jump into the vast ocean of God’s love and mercy.

Remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins are scarlet, God's love can make them white as snow. (Isa 1:14-19) This mercy is beautiful!! Therefore, we must cleanse ourselves first and foremost on the inside before the outside as today’s Gospel says.

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