Mt 23:13-22 Getting Through By Being Touch

This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.

You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.


When I first read this Gospel, I was struck by its similarity to a novel I am currently reading for school called Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is an American classic that fueled the anti-slavery movement and is thought to be a catalyst for the Civil War.
First, though—who were the Pharisees? Why did Jesus seem to be so bitter towards them? In the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were the most active and outspoken of the political groups. They became so caught up in small teachings that their ideology became extremism. In fact, their name in Hebrew means “separatists.” They chased after very strict ideals and allowed very few to become a part of their group—not that many wanted to.
In the same way, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a slave owner named St. Clare argues that his actions are not much worse than those of northern abolitionists: “I know the feeling among some of you northerners well enough … you would not have [slaves] abused; but you don’t want to have anything to do with them yourselves. You would send them to Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously.”
How very Pharisee-like! From Jesus’ time, to the Civil War era, to today, there are always groups of people that are all talk and no walk. All rhetoric and no substance. All catchy-Twitter-hashtag and no real action.If we want to be Christians, we have to steer clear of such things.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” Are we hypocrites? That is to ask: are we all talk and no walk? Do we really mean what we say? The Pharisees loved to act holy but in truth were concerned about wealth and external appearances. They were so concerned about appearing to be righteous that they entirely forgot what righteousness was. Abolitionists were so concerned about seeming upright that many forgot to actually aid the people they fought for, opting to throw money and political nonsense at the situation instead. Like them, we can be tempted as Christians to want to appear holy. We want to be known as the most moral, the most dignified, the most caring. But at what consequence?
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. How many times has our own self-righteousness prevented us from reaching out to someone who was really striving after holiness? I am so guilty. After all, if we spend all of our time trying to appear holy, what time is left over to actually build the Kingdom?  How many times have we shut ourselves out from the outside world because it frustrated us? How many people have we not ministered to as a consequence?
Self-righteousness is a plague. It is the master of false appearances. It is like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. The horse really wants to get to that carrot, but the farther it runs, the farther away the carrot gets. In the same way, by chasing after self-righteousness, real righteousness only gets farther out of reach. We lock the Kingdom of heaven before ourselves and before others.
 
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert…” It is a blessing, then, that empty rhetoric attracts very few people. There is a song that always plays on my way to cross country in the morning that says it better than I could: “I’ve never seen a soul set free from an argument, and I’ve never seen a hurt get healed from a protest.” Pharisees and empty preachers traversed sea and land and only a few people were actually converted to their ways. I could listen to a million pompous State of the Union addresses from both parties and still not have my mind be changed. And news flash, radical feminists: when #YesAllWomen or #NotMyBossBusiness clog my Twitter feed, I gain nothing but a tad of irritation and a few cents back on my cell phone bill from avoiding Twitter.  “…and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. Yikes!
?
How then, are we supposed to break our hypocritical tendencies? How do we not make “children of Gehenna”? For starters, we actually have to start caring about what we talk about. We have to start putting a little walk to our talk. It is great to preach about issues we are passionate about, but if we cannot back up our words with actions, we are no more credible than the next guy on the street. In no way is this as true as when we preach the Gospel. We cannot tell others to love their enemies if we do not love our own. We cannot ask people to defend every human life if we do not take care of the vulnerable that are already born. Defending truth is a hard but necessary task! As St. Clare says around the time of his conversion, “My view of Christianity is such… that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle.”
Wow! That is what we need to aspire to.?
As a side note, please pray that I finish Uncle Tom’s Cabin by 9 tomorrow morning…. Yikes.

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Fr. Alfonse (768 Posts)


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