There’s just no way to get around it—Jesus does not mince words when it comes to hypocrisy!
In this Gospel reading from Luke, he lays into the Pharisees for their insistence on ritualistic cleansing laws while refusing to observe the greater good—giving to those in need. The chapter goes on to blast the scribes/scholars as well for similar offenses.
It is easy to tsk-tsk and feel superior to the Pharisees—and for that matter anyone who pays more attention to the letter of the law than the spirit behind it. But you don’t have to be a person in authority to be guilty of hypocrisy. How often do we shake our heads in disapproval when we hear of people stopping at nothing to get ahead in life or career, yet we are quick to spread a rumor or cast doubt on someone’s character while absolving ourselves with the words, “I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that …”
Or, how often do we leave church on Sunday full of self-satisfaction because we took the time to attend and worship, only to find irritation toward a motorist or a family member consume us on the way home?
Jesus tells the Pharisee to “give alms” so that “everything will be clean for you.” In other words, give and give some more if you want to please God. Giving to and serving others emanate from within, and that is where God dwells. No amount of legal observance that neglects compassion and assistance to those in need can ever please God.
As St. Paul says in the first reading, if we try to be justified by observing the law, we separate ourselves from Christ. St. Paul says the only thing that counts is “faith working through love.” It’s so simple that we almost can’t believe it: Listen to Jesus. Love God. Care for and serve others. And the rest will take care of itself.
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