Woe to You Scribes and Pharisees.

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Scribes and Pharisees


“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13)

In yesterday’s Gospel passage, Jesus spoke about those who will be turned back at the entrance of heaven because they tried to enter by the large door, the easy door, the more popular door. Meanwhile, the narrow door remains forever open. Many Christians today are living a very false life, they are not what they portray. It is sad that despite the multiplicity of churches, evil seems to be on a rise in our society. Our real problem is hypocrisy and only very few Christians who are not hypocrites follow that narrow door.

These Scribes and Pharisees were supposedly the holiest of persons in the time of Jesus but Jesus’ heavy rebuke of them will teach us something about ourselves; we are always trying to deceive people when we really cannot deceive God. Consider the latest news around our country today; the fact that some eighty names have been published who are being alleged with crimes we never knew they were involved in.

These persons are our brothers and sisters, philanthropists, mentors, builders of churches, sponsors of politicians, respected and revered in the society, honoured in traditional palaces, speakers at international events, just name it. Today, reading the news, our hearts are filled with shock, shame, anger and even hope that what they might eventually be proven innocent.

I have read a lot of posts recently on social media regarding these names published and arrested. Rather than look inwards, some have taken to attacking a particular tribe and people. It seems as if we are already trying to distance ourselves from those who until last week we were longing to meet. We are like the men who brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. We have picked up stones already but we now need to listen to Jesus: “Let him who has not sinned be the first to cast a stone.”

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus accused the Pharisees of:

One. “Shutting the kingdom of heaven”. You wonder, how on earth can those who are leading people to heaven be the ones shutting down the same door? But this is just reality. Is it possible that in my preaching about heaven, I am just misleading the people? Does my life proclaim a different Gospel from what I preach?

Jesus said that they neither go in themselves nor would they allow those who want to go in. As a parent, a teacher, a respected person in the society or even a priest, do I have certain hidden sins that (when exposed), would become grave scandals to those looking up to me? Why not I repent before the truth comes out!!! How proud would I be if people get to know the true source of my wealth?

Two. Jesus accused them of travelling far and wide to convert a single person to the faith only to make him or her a more qualified candidate for hell. Am I simply interested in increasing the number of persons who come to my church? What is my aim of going out to evangelize? Is it just to win arguments or to actually tell people the truth? When I correct my children, do they catch me doing the very things I warned them against?

As a priest or the leader of a church, am I more concerned about the amount of offertories, tithes and seeds than in the actual spiritual nourishment of souls? Do I tell them how to get to heaven or do I just try to make them feel good and get them to keep coming back?

Three. Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of not teaching the truth regarding swearing and oath-taking. How sound is my theology? What efforts do I make to update my knowledge? Jesus called them blind guides because they were teaching things that they themselves did not even know. These Pharisees taught that if one swears by the altar, it is nothing but if one swears by the gift on the altar, he is bound by the oath. This way, they seemed to place more emphasis on the gift than the very altar itself which again revealed where their true interests lied. Jesus needed to correct them.

Dear friends, in conclusion, let us examine our consciences and repent. We should not be so interested in attempting to convert anyone as much as we should be interested in living in the light ourselves.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, cleanse me from all forms of hypocrisy. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Evaristus  Abu.