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Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, August 28, 2023




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


This seemed like a pretty intense verbal lashing to me. Jesus was rebuking the scribes and Pharisees calling them hypocrites (because they were) and pointing out exactly why they were and what they were doing wrong. Essentially telling them how they don’t practice what they teach and use their position to exploit and serve their own purposes instead of serving and helping the poor and needy. I think a big thing about the scribes and Pharisees is that they always tried to appear righteous but that’s all it was, appearance.


Something that stood out to me was that Jesus says “woe to you” multiple times and I saw this as not just a rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees but also as a warning of sorts. That if they do not see the error in their ways and change them there will be worse to come and they will face worse than just Jesus reprimanding them.


Unfortunately this can relate to us today as many of us can act like the Pharisees and get caught up in appearances instead of focusing on what Jesus is saying. It's all too easy to become ensnared in the allure of those appearances and to project an image of righteousness like the Pharisees while neglecting the essence of compassion, justice, and genuine service.


I recall a different passage in the Bible where Jesus says to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” or another where Jesus says “whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” in both instances Jesus is saying that if our motive is to draw attention to ourselves then we are doing it for the wrong reasons. In todays day and age the tendency is to value perception over substance, often forsaking authentic actions for the sake of maintaining a favorable image. This passage to me definitely sheds light on the pervasive nature of hypocrisy in our lives, whether we see it in others or introspectively acknowledge its presence within ourselves.


It reminds me of the old argument of whether or not true altruism is possible-whether any act of kindness can be entirely selfless or if there's always an underlying motive driving our actions. It begs the question of the reason why we do things or what our true motive is behind our actions. I think that it just goes to show the importance of genuine sincerity in our pursuits especially today, and how that will always be taken better and in a more positive light.


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