But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!
Woe to you, blind guides! You say: To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth: the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say: To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value: the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?
Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by him, who is seated on it.
Many earnest and fervent Christians do not distinguish between hurting and harming people. But, in fact, there is a world of difference between these two actions. For example, if someone punches you on the jaw and makes you lose two healthy teeth, that someone not only hurts you but also harms you. However, if your dentist extracts two sick teeth of yours, he might hurt you but he will certainly not harm you, on the contrary. Similarly, if a knife is plunged into your abdomen: if it is handled by an assassin, it will hurt and harm you; but if it is handled by a surgeon, it might hurt you (when you wake up from the anesthesia), but it will not harm you, on the contrary.
Telling someone a hard and well-deserved truth in a spirit of fraternal correction might hurt that someone while at the same time helping that someone.
In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites (3 times) and blind (3 times). Was he hurting them? Surely. Was he harming them? Not at all. On the contrary, he was giving them a shock treatment in the hope of waking them up from their dangerous self-complacency. That is what is called tough love. It hurts, but at times it can be extremely beneficial.
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