Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 26th, 2009

Paul Mahowald, S.J.

St. John's Church
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
The gospel today continues with the last two “woe’s” of the seven listed in Matthew’s chapter 23. Yesterday the gospel listed two others and Monday would have been three more but were replaced by the feast of St. Bartholomew.

Jesus was angry physically when he drove the money changers out of the temple.  But here Jesus is angry verbally at the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.  What could be clearer than saying that they were like “white-washed tombs?”  On the outside they appear righteous, i.e., law-abiding, but inside they are full of hypocrisy and evil doing.

Jesus clearly is disappointed in them.  We all know people like that, don’t we?  The economy and its downturn last autumn was because of unbelievable levels of greed and duplicity.  Then they gift themselves with “golden parachutes” as they leave behind a hopeless and failing institution. They aren’t much different in their attitude than the “patent medicine salesmen” of the early 20th century or the door-to-door “bible salesmen” of the depression era. (Remember the movie with Tatum and Ryan O’Neil.)

Is Jesus also disappointed in us?  We have been blessed in so many ways but we still can become easily deceitful and two-faced.  Consider how easy it is for us to use “white lies” to make ourselves look better!  Consider how envious we can be when someone we know excels in one way or another.  Our selfishness knows no bounds.

We judge others and criticize them rashly without knowing why they act the way they do.  We seem to find no personal offense when we are guilty of road rage and judge someone else’s behavior. We are prejudiced in how we treat others who do not seem to “belong” in our midst.  Ah, the greed and covetousness we have in our hearts when we always want more and more even though we have enough and don’t need anymore. 

When Jesus identified the scribes and Pharisees as frauds and hypocrites in this text today we also need to reflect on our own inner attitudes and pray for God’s help to be more honest and less like “white-washed tombs.” 

Our inner attitude and our prayer should be inspired by today’s psalm.  “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee.  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.”  (Ps 139: 7-8)

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