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.”
REFLECTION: We have all heard this phrase; “Practice what you Preach” or the “Double Standard”. These words apply to everything we do in our life, such as telling someone to eat healthier or telling someone that they are breaking a rule or judging someone for something they said and yet, what are you doing?! An example of this double standard could be me eating a cheeseburger, while breaking my doctor’s order (rule), and judging someone for eating chili cheese fries.
I want you to imagine two opposing people or groups, each holding a flag that is representing their standard, and they’re ready to defend their beliefs. On one side is the army of Christ: on the other, the army of the devil. But if you think about it, one could be arguing something today but tomorrow it would be different. Perhaps it could even be what the opposition was speaking. And there you have it, the Ol’ double standard.
Another scenario, what do the two standards say to us? Perhaps one says “selfishness,” and the other says “selflessness.” Or perhaps “prestige” and “humility.” Or “power” and “charity.” What are the actual temptations I face in my life today, which might lead me away from the service of faith and the promotion of a just world?
Now imagine these images that look less like a battle or argument or debate and more like a “moral and spiritual challenge”. Do I choose to act in ways which benefit me first? Do I mimic the fashions of the world around me, seeking to build my own social wealth in the process? Or do I keep a laser focus on the good that the Lord is doing in the world, asking only for the grace to be a part of it?
Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ, who wrote about the Two Standards by suggesting a contrast between “upward mobility” and, “downward mobility”. Do I have the courage to trust that Christ might lead me toward service of the poor and outcast, even at the cost of social or professional recognition? Do I have the faith that Christ is doing a great thing in me, even when no one (even I) can recognize it?
All of us have a Pharisee within us. It would be wonderful if we always practiced what we preached. However, the reality is that, at times, we fail to do this. In a crazy way, this has the potential to be a blessing. Knowing that when we fail, it may enable or teach us to be more understanding and compassionate when others fail. We are human after all and thus, we never will be perfect. May we pray for the grace to possess that “upward mobility” and forgive ourselves when we fail! Sometimes, I have to remind myself regularly that living our lives in service of others is the most tangible path to humility and the best way to live a life modeled after Jesus.
ACTION OF THE DAY: Allow God to lead you in prayer, the prepare yourself to let go even of habits, rituals, and externals – all so that you may have the ability to better hear the voice of God.