Woe To You

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!”
(Matthew 23:27-32)

Scripture Study

23:27–28 The sixth woe, like the preceding one, deals with concern for externals and neglect of what is inside. Since contact with dead bodies, even when one was unaware of it, caused ritual impurity (Nm 19:11–22), tombs were whitewashed so that no one would contract such impurity inadvertently.

23:29–32 In spite of honoring the slain dead by building their tombs and adorning their memorials, and claiming that they would not have joined in their ancestors’crimes if they had lived in their days, the scribes and Pharisees are true children of their ancestors and are defiantly ordered by Jesus to fill up what those ancestors measured out. This order reflects the Jewish notion that there was an allotted measure of suffering that had to be completed before God’s final judgment would take place.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus launches a blistering attack on the scribes and Pharisees. What are the underlying problems that bother Jesus?

First, “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to help them.” Some religious leaders burden people, making demands that are terrible, exulting in their own moral superiority.

Secondly, “All their works are performed to be seen.” They use the law and morality as a means of inflating the ego. A pious Jew would wear Phylacteries as a sign of devotion. Well, they think, why not widen them, draw attention to them to show people how pious they are.

Third, “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces and the salutation, ‘Rabbi.'” Titles, privileges, places of honor, marks of respect. Like any drug, these provide a rush. The trouble is that this drug wears off rather quickly, and then we want more of it. A greater title, more respect, more recognition. What is Jesus’ recommendation for those caught in this dilemma? Be satisfied with doing your work on behalf of God’s kingdom, whatever it is.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.