“For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
One of the most difficult thing to do is to try to correct a person who believes he or she is perfect. It is a task that requires true courage and even the willingness to risk one’s own life. Jesus would have tried to be quiet (or even diplomatic) but he said the truth just as it is. This is one important lesson we must learn from Jesus who told us “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).
When it comes to correcting our religious leaders, there is a tendency for us to quote passages such as: “Touch not my anointed ones, and do my prophet no harm.” (1 Chronicles 16:22 & Psalm 105:15). In truth, the greatest harm we can do to God’s anointed ones and prophets is our failure to tell them the truth or to pretend (to praise them in their presence only to go behind them and complain). If you cannot tell someone the truth to his face, then don’t say it to anyone else, this is the sin of gossip.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees to their face how they cared more about their public image without minding the fact that their hearts were full of iniquity. Jesus likened them to whitewashed tombs beautiful to look at from the outside but full of dead men’s bones inside.
As a Christian, if people get close to me, would they see something different from what I portray in public? Do I even believe the things I preach? If I am not convinced about what is right and wrong, do I expect anyone to believe me? If I am not converted, how I hope to convert a single soul? For how long would I continue to hide hoping that my secrets would never be exposed?
The scribes and Pharisees had a practice of adorning the tombs of the prophets who were persecuted for their righteous deeds, meanwhile, they were about to repeat history by killing Jesus for telling them the truth. If we fail to examine our conscience, if we keep telling ourselves we are better than everyone else, we begin to believe the lies we tell ourselves to the extent that even when we are confronted with the truth, we immediately consider that person as an enemy.
No matter how good you think you are, have some openness to criticism. Do not surround yourself with sycophants. Cherish and appreciate those who have a different opinion, there is always something to learn and something you can improve on. Do not assume that your critics are being disloyal to you. Only a true friend will tell you to your face that you are going the wrong way. Jesus says we should be childlike to enter heaven; be willing to take advice even from your subordinates, do not become a god unto yourself.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give us the grace to practice what we preach and be open to the truth. Amen.
Bible Study: 1Thes. 2:9-13, Ps.139 & Mat. 23:27-32).