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Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of Hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by Heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my heart to take to heart your words and keep you at the center of my heart.
- Woes: Jesus was not afraid of offering warnings. His seven woes were directed at the scribes and Pharisees of his time, but can easily serve as an examination of conscience for our days. His statements seemed very harsh as he called them out, illuminating their interior motives and misguided zeal. But for those who stand in the place of God, acting as gatekeepers to God’s holy presence, a harsh wake-up call is pedagogical. How many times in our lives do we feel that God gives us wake-up calls? Is there anything in our life that his warnings speak to?
- Stark Imagery: Jesus is clear about the consequences of the Pharisees’ misguided zeal. “You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces…You make them twice as much a child of Hell as you are.” What does it say about the Pharisees’ hearts? It seems that their primary goal was condemnation—far from the goal of God the Father who sent his only Son for the salvation of the world. These are very stark images that can help us revisit our interior intentions and our deepest motives for teaching, guiding, and enforcing laws.
- A Disciple’s Heart: The mission of the Pharisees is a noble one. Their task is to assure that the people of God follow a righteous path. To be righteous requires having the Lord at the center of our heart, free of the idols of pride, vanity, greed, etc. The first task of those responsible for guiding others is striving to live with their heart centered on the Lord. From there, they are empowered to reach out to others to show them the path to life.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, grant me a heart like yours, one that is centered on glorifying the Father and seeking you above all else. Grant that I may lead others closer to you by my example, prayer, and action.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on the deepest interior motives for any zealousness I discover in myself.
For Further Reflection: The Daily Prayer of Discernment: The Examen Prayer with Fr. Timothy Gallagher.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”