The Gospel according to Matthew (23:13-22)
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “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. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, please free me from every error so that Your holy Word will be alive in me and will be sent forth to others through the manifestation of the many virtues You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.
Encountering Christ: Hypocrisy is essentially saying one thing and doing another. It’s a disconnect between what we say and what we do. Hypocrisy can also come in the form of trying to present oneself as if one has every virtue under Heaven but in reality, cares little for the clear doctrine and moral precepts given us by God. Unfortunately, we witness hypocrisy almost every day, but we are taught not to judge and to look at the good virtues of that person. In this passage, Our Lord condemns hypocrisy and the scribes and Pharisees. They claimed to be leading people to salvation, but they were condemning the very source of salvation. On one hand, some of what they taught was true, but they failed to teach with the virtue that comes from God. On the other hand, some of what they taught was flat-out erroneous, because they were more concerned about their public persona than they were about the truth. Sound familiar? Isn’t this what we see in our lives today through TV, social media, and the news? Essentially, they were hypocrites, because their words and actions were neither united in the truth nor lived through the virtues given by God.
These two opposing tendencies seem to be a source of much division within our Church today. On one side we have those who preach doctrine but fail to exercise the necessary virtue to be effective instruments of those truths. And on the other side are those who act as if so-called virtue is all that matters. They deemphasize the clear and unmistakable moral and doctrinal truths that were given to us by our Lord, so that others will praise them for appearing kind, accepting and compassionate toward all. The problem is that one cannot exclude truth from virtue or virtue from truth. Compassion is not compassionate if it lacks truth, and the truth is not true if it is not presented with the virtues by which our Lord wants them brought forth. And though the scribes and Pharisees appear to be more focused upon their interpretations of various truths to the exclusion of virtue, their struggle with hypocrisy is just as real for those on both extremes today.
Do we embracing each and every moral and doctrinal precept given by our Lord? Probably not because we are as perfect as He is, but we must attempt to embrace everything He says with every fiber of our being. The deeper the truth, the more necessary is the virtue with which it is presented. And the more virtue you have, the better instrument of the full truth you will be.
Closing Prayer: Holy Father, allow me to strive to overcome every form of hypocrisy within my life by working toward true holiness because Holiness is wholeness.
Action of the Day: Pray for the hypocrites in your life.