Gospel: Mt 23:27-32
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful in appearance; but, inside, there are only dead bones and uncleanness. In the same way, you appear religious to others, but you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness within. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets, and decorate the monuments of the righteous. You say: Had we lived in the time of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So, you, yourselves, confess to be the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
And now, finish off what your ancestors began!
In today’s Gospel text we continue to read Jesus’ denunciations against the scribes and Pharisees. Their hypocrisy is the one big stumbling block which is preventing them from accepting Jesus’ teaching and thereby enter the kingdom of heaven. There is a disturbing incongruity between their external appearance and their interior life. On the outside they “appear religious …but are full of wickedness within.”
When reading this passage there could arise in us a strong temptation toward self-righteousness. We could develop a holier-than-thou attitude. Arrogantly we could look down on the Scribes and Pharisees and quietly enjoy seeing them receive the humiliation they deserve. Perhaps unconsciously we could be thinking of the people we dislike, those whom we consider to be undeserving of the love and mercy of God, and wish that they too be castigated and punished by the Lord.
It would be best that we place ourselves into the shoes of the Scribes and Pharisees. Admit it or not, we are sometimes no better than them. Because we are oftentimes guilty of hypocrisy and inconsistency, let us allow ourselves to be addressed by Jesus as he utters the denunciations. Let us allow him to awaken our consciences, admit our faults and make a firm resolve to change for the better.