August 27, 2014
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.” Mt 23:27-32
Jesus told his disciples and he tells us that we are to Love our neighbor as ourselves. He spoke of giving and not counting the cost. He spoke of forgiving and not holding a grudge.
And he told us that above all, we are to do these things with all humility; because what we’ll find, is that when we live our lives in service to others, instead of purely for ourselves alone, there will be many people who will come back to us in gratitude. The trick and the challenge then, is not letting that gratitude go to our heads, but instead, we are to pass all the credit on to God and on to Jesus.
This is where, over many, many years, the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time had gone wrong. They began to believe that it was they who deserved all that credit, all that gratitude. And then as their pride grew out of control, they began to insist that sacrifices be made by others that they neglected to make, themselves. And before they knew it, they were making themselves gods, that everyone else had to worship. And in the process, they used the pretense that it was supposedly all done for the sake of God.
Everyone knew that the Pharisees were out of line. Yet, they were deathly afraid of saying anything about it, because they knew that they would be expelled from the Synagogue if they did. But, you see, beloved, Jesus wasn’t afraid of those false leaders. Instead of cowering to their will, Jesus chastised their behavior by calling them Hypocrites: what they said and what they did were totally opposite things, because they fell into that trap of sin we call pride.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Monica. Monica was a devout Catholic mother of three children. When her oldest son fell away from the faith and into that same trap of pride as the Pharisees, Monica prayed her heart out that he would undergo a conversion. She entrusted the life of her beloved son into the hands of Jesus. And out of the hands of Jesus, St. Augustine became one of the greatest Catholic theologians of all time. And St. Monica died a happy mom, with the peace of the knowledge that God, in His great Wisdom, always hears our prayers when they’re offered for the Glory of His Name.
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