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Let the Word Shape You
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, may I approach you in prayer with an attitude of sincerity and purity of intention. Help me to overcome any blindness that there may be in me and give me a real openness to change.
- You Hypocrites: Jesus directly accused the men in today’s Gospel of hypocrisy, using Isaiah’s prophecy from the Old Testament to define it: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” Hypocrisy is as much a temptation for us as it was for the men of Isaiah’s time, and for these Pharisees. There are many manifestations of this sin. The Pharisees were self-righteously misjudging the intentions of the disciples. “How seldom we weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves” (Thomas a Kempis). Is this kind of hypocrisy a weakness of ours?
- Their Hearts Are Far from Me: The Pharisees loved their own traditions to a degree that blinded them to truth and hardened their hearts. They were unable to recognize and embrace Jesus in their midst. We too can proclaim our love for Jesus to others while interiorly rejecting one or more of his precepts, especially those that require us to live counter-culturally. To keep our hearts close to Jesus, we must pray for the virtue of authenticity and frequently examine our attitudes for even the most subtle signs of interior division. May we have the courage and fortitude to be authentic disciples of Christ in all aspects of our life.
- You Nullify the Word of God: Jesus accused the Pharisees of nullifying the word of God by favoring and enforcing their traditions over the law. In other places they were accused of tying “up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4). This is a stern warning for those of us in positions of spiritual authority over others—pastors, ministry leaders, parents, etc. We can avoid corrupting others’ experience of the word by remaining close to the heart of Jesus. In the exercise of our authority, we beg for humility, seeking only the very best for those under our care, and offering ourselves as a living sacrifice.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you are calling me to a sincere living of my faith! You are calling me to an attitude of humility and self-examination. You are inviting me to have my heart set on you, and living as if my only fear is to be separated from you. May I take your word to heart and make it the driving force in my life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience for signs of hypocrisy and repent, begging for humility.
For Further Reflection: An Examination of Conscience Using the New Testament.
Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.