Wednesday, August 27 ~ Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Gospel: 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!”
Jesus used strong language to warn the religious leaders about the vanity of appearance and pretense. In Palestine tombs were often placed by the sides of roads. They were painted white which made them glisten in the midday sun, especially around the time of the great feasts, so that people would not accidently touch them and incur ritual impurity. Jesus warns that what truly corrupts a person is not ritual impurity but the impurity of sinful attitudes – such as pride, greed, sloth, envy, hatred, gluttony, and lust – which lead to sinful behavior. The scribes and Pharisees were intensely religious in their outward observances, but their outward show didn’t match the inner reality of the state of their hearts. They not only neglected the poor and the weak, but they were intolerant towards anyone who challenged their idea of religion. That is why so many of the prophets in past ages – who warned about tolerating evil desires and unjust behavior towards one neighbor – were persecuted and even killed by their own rulers and people.
O God, who console the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus chastised the religious leaders for being double-minded and for demanding from others standards which they refused to satisfy. They professed admiration for the prophets by building their tombs while at the same time they opposed the prophets’ message and closed their ears to the word of God. They shut themselves to heaven and they hindered others from understanding God’s word. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah because their hearts were blinded and hardened to the voice of God. Only the humble of heart can receive from God true wisdom and understanding, pardon and healing. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to renew our minds and hearts and to teach us God’s way of love and holiness. Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart and mind and to fill you with the wisdom and understanding of God’s word.