FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY OF THE 21ST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I
THEME: WOE TO YOU, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES II
BY: WOE TO YOU, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES II
Wednesday, 25th August 2021
* 1 Thess 2 : 9 – 13, Matt 23 : 27 – 32.
The main grouse Christ had against the Scribes and Pharisees bothered not on the issue of human weaknesses but on the issue of integrity. According to David Diebel, ‘Integrity is being what you said you are and doing what you said you will do’. A hypocrite is an actor – a pretender who makes people think he is what he is not. The Scribes claimed to have more knowledge than others while the Pharisees claimed to be holier than others but that was far from the reality. Francis Bacon says that a bad man is worse when he pretends to be a Saint.
The next issue was that they were blind guides – pretending to be leading people to the kingdom of God but actually leading them to hell. For this reason St James said : ‘Let not many of you become teachers because they that teach shall be judged with a greater judgment’, Js 3 : 1. Jesus was an exemplary teacher – He ‘talked to his paper’ as we say in academic conferences and ‘walked his talk’ so to speak. Bad teachers read /dictate their lectures and keep quoting /copying this or that person. They don’t internalize what they are saying (call it literature review, or whatever) and if they are preaching, they tend to read what Fr Bona Ugwu calls a ‘fourth gospel’. It is always a disaster when a teacher /preacher does not know his stuff well and another disaster when he knows and preaches well but does the opposite. Pope Paul VI put it this way : ‘A man preaches with moral authority that which he does and practices but when the conscience become obstacle to speech then what is preached becomes difficult to accept’.
Let’s summarize quickly the 7 Woes of the Scribes and Pharisees :
1. You shut the door …Dogmatism.
2. You transverse the seas….Scandal.
3. You swear by the temple…Compromise.
4. You pay tithes…Exploitation.
5. You wash the outside of the cup….Hypocrisy.
6. Whitewashed tombs…Externalism.
7. Sepulchres of the Prophets… Persecution of Prophets.
St Paul in today’s 1st reading sets us an example of how not to be a burden to the people of God by working /earning a living and combining it with the pastoral work. We ask God for the grace to live exemplary lives in whatever vocation we find ourselves and never be engaged in any form of hypocrisy. We also ask for the wisdom to be able to identify the hypocrites among us and never allow them to be our leaders. Christ said that ‘by their fruits we shall know them’, Matt 7 : 24. May God bless you today!