The Gospel, according to Matthew (23:27-32)
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
REFLECTION: When Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, this would not have been an easy thing for the scribes and Pharisees to hear. It is a hard truth, spoken by our Lord, I believe, with an attempt to shake them free of their sin. And even though they may not have enjoyed hearing this clear accusation spoken, since it came from the Savior of the World, we can be sure that these are words with the deepest love and were spoken so that these men would repent and change their ways.
Brothers and sisters, perhaps each of us, at times, feels like criticizing someone. Most of the times, when we feel this way, it comes up from our own personal sin of anger. Perhaps we were hurt by someone and that hurt results in a desire to retaliate that comes from anger. But this was not the case with Jesus.
These words were spoken by Jesus, to his disciples and to the crowds of people, not just to the scribes and Pharisees. So, in many ways, Jesus spoke this for the good of those who were suffering under the misguided leadership of these religious leaders. Jesus knew that these leaders would also hear His words, so He spoke those words to them. But unlike us, Jesus did not do it to retaliate, but rather, out of perfect virtue to care for their souls. At times, each one of us needs to hear Jesus rebuke us in love.
If any of the scribes and Pharisees were open at that time, then Jesus’ words would have first strike them to the heart but then had the powerful effect of challenging them to change. They needed this and so do we. When we become stuck in our sins, especially if stubbornness sets in, then we need to allow Jesus to challenge us firmly. Such a challenge can be rattling, but that rattling is sometimes necessary. Emotion and passion can lead to sin, but it can also lead to repentance and conversion.
The passion with which Jesus spoke became an instrument by which their own passions made them sit up and take notice. The result was that they either became more stuck in their sin or they repented. And though most became even more stuck in sin, which ultimately resulted in their persecution and death of Jesus, we can hope that there were some who did repent, like Nicodemus.
Our passionate Lord hates sin but loves the sinner. He perfectly desires to remove from us all sin and all attachment to sin. That’s why it is very important that we open our mind and heart to hear our Lord’s rebukes of Love so that we may respond to His invitation to repent with all our heart.
ACTION FOR THE DAY: Ask our passionate Lord, who hates sin but loves the sinner, to perfectly help you to get rid of all sin and all attachment to sin. And as you do this, open your mind and heart to hear His rebukes of Love so that you may respond to His invitation to repent with all your heart. So that you may love Him more.