August 23, 2022
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 426

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3a, 14-17
Psalm 96:10, 11-12, 13
Matthew 23:23-26

Praying Ordinary Time

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A Renewed Personal Encounter with Jesus

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.

Greetings fellow hypocrites – you know, the people who never miss church but drive by the homeless without a second thought or confine their giving to a check in the collection.  

The churches are full of people like us who have failed to help friends in need or unfairly judged someone even though we say we’re Christians.

Today’s gospel from Matthew makes me ask what constitutes hypocrisy. Some things seem pretty obvious like politicians constantly thanking veterans but voting against their health care . But most things are murkier.

Jesus surely wants us to understand the people who secretly got vaccinated for Covid but let people think they hadn’t because tthey were afraid of being socially ostracized. Fear keeps lots of people silent on moral issues on which they should speak out but does this make them hypocrites?  Don’t ask me to judge.

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites or making a show of practicing their religion while neglecting the important fundamentals. It’s a trap lots of people fall into because specific rules make it easy to say what’s good and what’s bad. Such people want to be sure what they are doing is good, not debate moral theology, especially as things change.

At one time, talking in church was considered a sin but now at St. John’s, we come to Mass early enough to visit with friends. That would still violate the rules at a lot of parishes.

One Saturday a visitor to St. John’s asked our group to be silent so she could pray. OOPS! We moved to stop disturbing her. I’m guessing some of us unfairly judged her a Pharisee instead of someone who understood prayer differently than our community-obsessed congregation.

I’ve heard people say they dropped out of church because most church goers are hypocrites. They actually mean that we are sinners. Yes!

I go to church precisely because I need the connection with other imperfect but striving people as well as homilies that suggest how to do better in the week ahead. Does that make us hypocrites or just the sinners Jesus came to save?

With that in mind, I’m going to focus on Jesus’ admonition to stress “the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity,” especially mercy. I’m going to try to do at least one merciful thing that I otherwise would not have done and I’ll TRY to make my actions more consistent with my beliefs to avoid hypocrisy.

Oh! And if anyone in Omaha want to share a little dill from your garden, terrific! I promise not to judge you as a hypocrite, especially if you throw in some fresh basil! 

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