Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees
“Sige ka magagalit sa iyo ang Dios!” (God will get angry at you). These are the words often uttered by an exasperated parent to a naughty child. This is understandable considering the pressure the parent is undergoing towards his/her unconcerned child. No harm is meant but it is not correct to say this because this may end up creating a wrong image of Jesus in the mind of a child.
But in today’s gospel it seems that Jesus is angry. He scolds the Pharisees for pretending to be the best and most learned group He calls the scribes and Pharisees ‘hypocrites’ for two times and ‘woes’ too for three times. . It is because instead of encouraging people to enter heaven, they “lock the kingdom of heaven” because of their superficiality, legalism and hypocrisy. Indeed, he seems angry to a degree that could shock us. So can we say that parents are justified when they get angry with their children? The answer is still no. The anger of Jesus is not directed to children. It is adults he is condemning. It’s the adults who are the hypocrites, who use religion for their own profit. They are the ones who feed themselves instead of the flock entrusted to them.
In other words, the Lord in the gospel teaches us to avoid the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. As one priest said in his homily, we may appear to be devoted Catholics in the sense that we religiously do our obligations like going to Mass not only on Sundays but even everyday, we go to confession regularly, we donate a lot of money to the Church, we are members or even officers of religious organizations. But, if our religiosity is merely to satisfy our desires and not accompanied by an internal devotion to God, our external religiosity is useless.
Jesus for two times, calls his opponents, ‘hypocrites.’ The Greek word for hypocrites is hupocritai, a theatrical term meaning “actor.” In other words, the term refers to people who behave falsely or religious leaders who fail in their responsibility towards the people or appeared righteous and honest but within himself, dishonest and disobedient.
Jesus addresses his opponents, ‘woes.’ The word woe is also translated as alas. It is as much an expression of sorrowful pity as it is of anger. Jesus scolds the Pharisees and scribes by addressing them ‘woes’ for a total of three times in this gospel passage alone! What so pained Our Lord was not the ardent sinner, the prostitute, the tax collector and not even the poor soul that would betray him. Rather, his passionate reprimands were directed to those who were specifically called to provide safe passage to the lost sheep of Israel and bring them back to God. Jesus calls them “blind guides”, with no real concern for the spiritual well-being of those who follow them.
Somebody said that it is very difficult to be one’s own guide in the spiritual life. When it comes to evaluating our own selves, we can be quite biased due to our emotions or our pride. Thus, we need a good guide. One of the greatest gifts we can receive is to have someone who can orient us in our journey to God. Let us pray to God that we find such a person.
As for us, we need to examine ourselves more. What kind of Catholic are we? What is our real intention in fulfilling our obligations as Christian Catholics?