YEAR B: HOMILY FOR TUESDAY OF THE 21ST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WOE TO YOU SCRIBES AND PHARISEES (Continued)
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
_“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” *(Matthew 23:13)*_
Today’s Gospel’s passage just like that of yesterday calls for a deep examination of conscience. Once again, we must bear in mind that Jesus never set out to just condemn these religious leaders, His words were uttered out of love for them to wake up from their slumber and make them apply the needed changes in areas where they were getting it wrong.
Today, we hear Jesus accusing the Scribes and Pharisees of paying so much emphasis on TITHES while ignoring the weightier matters of the law such as justice, mercy and faith. In fact, Jesus says the issue of the tithe is like a fly compared to a camel. If I begin to preach that failure to pay tithe is tantamount to going to hell, I am sincerely a Scribe and a Pharisee because I have turned the truth upside down. Note that Jesus did not condemn tithing, he simply says it is not as important as justice, mercy and faith.
We Scribes and Pharisees today are more concerned about the number of people who come to our churches than the quality of their spiritual life. We wash the outside of the cup; we make the people feel good yet inside their hearts is full of corruption, wickedness and evil. No wonder, as churches increase exponentially in our cities, crime and evil also increase.
True change can only begin from the inside. As the saying goes, if you want to change the world, begin with the man you see in the mirror. If my preaching must be of any relevance, I must first do away with my hypocrisy and love for money. I must admit the truth and lead by example so as not to demand certain standards from the people which I am not even willing to meet.
Today, we celebrate a Saint who didn’t just preach but practiced what he preached. Augustine was born in Numidia. His family were ethnic North Africans (the Berbers). His father was a pagan, but his mother was a devout Christian.
His mother had a strong influence on the young Augustine, but to her disappointment, Augustine left his Christian background and joined the Manichean sect, founded by the prophet Mani in 240. He also fell in with friends who followed a hedonist approach to life. He also remembers an incident when a youth – stealing fruit from an orchard because he liked the idea of rebelling. This period stuck in his mind and helped formulate his idea of the inherently sinful nature of man. Despite his wayward lifestyle, he developed an interest in philosophy and was impressed by the writings of Cicero. Augustine became an expert in Latin and rhetoric.
In his late teens, he developed an affair with a young woman from Carthage. She gave birth to his illegitimate son Adeodatus in 372. In 384, he was given a more prestigious position as a rhetoric professor at the Imperial Court of Milan. Eventually, he annulled his marriage as he made plans to become a celibate priest. In 386, at the age of 31, he made a formal conversion to Christianity. Augustine was baptized with his son by Bishop Ambrose in April 388. His mother died shortly after his event. Afterwards, they returned home to Africa, where his son Adeodatus died shortly after. Augustine gave away his wealth to the poor and converted his house into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of like-minded Christians.
In 391, he became the Bishop of Hippo and for the next 39 years became an influential preacher, often speaking against his former religion of Manichaeism. In the last half of his life, Augustine was noted for his piety – shunning his former hedonistic lifestyle and living a life of simplicity and devotion. As one of the last great Christian theologians before the dark ages of the Medieval Period, Augustine was very influential on the development of Christianity. He was canonized in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give us the grace to practice what we preach that our life may not preach a gospel different from that of our lips. Amen. St. Augustine, Pray for us.
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Tuesday of the 21st week in Ordinary Time, Bible Study: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Psalm 96:10-13 and Matthew 23:23-26).