Monday, August 26, 2019
Monday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
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.” Matthew 23:13
In this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses the harsh rebuke “Woe to you…” seven times in a row in reference to the scribes and Pharisees. He also calls them “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs,” “serpents,” “brood of vipers,” and “murderers.” Jesus could not be any clearer about His wholehearted and harsh rebukes of these religious leaders.
Why is Jesus so harsh toward the scribes and Pharisees? Because they are doing one of the grave evils one can do. They are misleading people in the name of God. Nothing could be worse.
Unfortunately, the scribes and Pharisees may not see it this way. But that is precisely one of the main reasons Jesus is so strong in His public rebuke of these religious leaders. His strong rebuke is an act of mercy on His part in that the scribes and Pharisees need more than just a simple invitation to repentance. They need to have their twisted malice laid out before them clearly and definitively. And it needs to be laid out for them and also for others to see. This rebuke of Jesus is not spoken in irrational anger or hatred; rather, it is spoken in the hope that these truths will sink in and they will repent.
Reflect, today, upon two important lessons from these rebukes. First, ponder whether or not you struggle with the ugly sins of self-righteousness. Do you act religious, while at the same time fail to be truly merciful? Second, be aware that at times the most loving thing you can do for another is to rebuke them. Be careful with this and make sure that any rebuke offered is truly from the Lord. Do not hesitate to do so when, with a well formed conscience, you discern this to be from God. It may be the best way to win this form of sinner back to Christ.
Lord, when I fall into the awful sin of self-righteousness and pride, please humble me and rebuke me at the core of my being. Help me to always respond to these holy rebukes by truly repenting of my sins. Help me, also, to charitably speak the truth to those who need to hear it for their own good. Give me wisdom, courage and mercy in life so that I may be used to help all sinners return to You. Jesus, I trust in You.