Tuesday of the 21st Week of the Year

Matt 23:23-26

Neglect for Weightier Things


When someone comes up to you and tells you straight to your face: “PLASTIC KA!” wouldn’t you be very indignant? No one takes a liking to the comment, but one is always quick enough to utter it. It is used to refer to someone who is perceived to be insincere or is simply faking. When you’re plastic, you’re a hypocrite! The gospel shows Jesus renouncing the hypocrisy of the religious authorities of his time. Their obvious pretensions have become obstacles on the path to true knowledge of God.

What exactly did Jesus mean when he called the Pharisees hypocrites, when they were so versed in the knowledge of the Bible? In Jesus’ language, the word hypocrite denotes what is superficial as well as anyone who aspires to direct others without having learned from the poor or practiced true humility. The challenge is directed not only to church leaders then and now, but to all of us.

Today we are all exhorted to become true reflection of the deep humility of Christ which he manifested by his death on the cross. The life of St. Monica (August 27), the mother of St. Augustine, explicitly tells the value of keeping a humble heart in the face of the impossible, the humility that says: “Lord, I can’t do it, but if you will, it can be done!”

Be humble! Mature Christians seek to walk in the ways of Christ and those before them who lived in humble obedience to the Lord. They exemplified deep humility, the mark of a mature Christian. How do we do this?  Simple, turn your life inward. See what might be changed therein. Surrender everything that block your Christian growth and maturity asking God for the grace and courage to reform. For as Christ said: “Purify the inside first,” then the outside too will be purified. We all stand stained and tarnished before our Lord but he looks beyond our shabbiness and looks at our humble and contrite hearts. (Fr. Kids del Parto, SVD Bible Diary 2002)


We are so concerned about what others think of us that we often wear masks (not transparent) and hide our real self. We have difficulties to be transparent and real. Who is my model? Whom will I imitate? (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2007)


A Filipino migrant worker here in Korea came to our office one day and asked me to help him find the owner of the money he found in the ATM machine. It was early morning when he went to check his ATM account. He knew that he didn’t have money left in his account and he was desperate because his family was dire need of money. When he came to the ATM machine he found 700,000 won (33,000 pesos). Somebody must have left it here for me, he thought. He took the money and went to work. However, he could not concentrate in his work and he could not sleep either. When I asked what made him decide to return the money, he confessed: “I go to Mass every Sunday and every time I go to Mass I receive Communion. If I keep this money, I will be fooling myself.”

We were able to find the owner of the money through the help of the bank. The owner of the money was a Vietnamese. It was his first time to use the machine. Thinking that he did the wrong procedure he went home. He did not wait for the money to come out. When the Filipino handed the money to him, he was very happy and thankful. He said his family needs it very badly.

The young Filipino migrant worker is obviously the opposite of the teachers of the Law and Pharisees whom Jesus called hypocrites. Jesus says: “First clean the inside of the cup so that its outside maybe clean.” He means, of course, that if our interior disposition is good, wholesome and gospel-oriented then our exterior, our lives, our actions, our contacts with our fellowmen will also be truly Christian. If we truly live as true Christians we can make others happy as well as ourselves. (Fr. Emmanuel Ferrer, SVD Bible Diary 2008)


Today’s gospel tells us of Jesus’ strong denunciations against the Pharisees for their hypocrisy: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. You pay tithes…..and have neglected the weightier things of the law.” In a parallel passage in Luke 11, 43ff Jesus said: “A curse is on you. Pharisees, for you love the first seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the marketplace. A curse is on you for you are like tombstones of the dead….people makes themselves unclean by stepping on them.”

I think, to a certain extent, we are all guilty of hypocrisy. But there are people in our midst who have institutionalized hypocrisy and lies and insincerity to the point of repugnance. They love the first seats in the ‘synagogues’ and in the ‘marketplaces.’ They are hungry for prominence and power. When election time comes, they become super-friendly, shaking hands with everybody. But we know that those handshakes are a mockery. They mean nothing more than our votes. They make sweet promises. But we know exactly that these are nothing but empty words. The poor have become wise, if not practical. They flock to them, not for what they stand for, but to get money to buy their daily needs.

Our officials love to display their accomplishments in public places – highways, bridges, kiosks, etc. They advertise their names on billboards bearing the words: “Project of Congressman So-and-So” or “Project of Senator So-and-So.” This is actually ridiculous, because using public funds for personal propaganda is tantamount to misappropriation of funds. In Europe and, I suppose, also in other countries which are less corrupt, they put instead these words: THIS IS WHERE YOUR TAXES GO!” or “THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY OF THE PEOPLE GOES!”

The Word of God has the power to change hearts. We all need a change of heart. We reflect on God’s Word for our conversion. We have to rid our country of a social cancer that is eating up the moral fiber of our people. We must pray especially for our politicians so that they have a change of heart. (Fr. Erasio Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2009)


August 23, 2016 Tuesday

The importance of inner beauty, pure motivation and charity from the heart, more than an outward show, is central to today’s Gospel. Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who “meticulously clean the outside of the cup and dish” but inwardly are full of “what they have gotten by violence and selfishness”. For Jesus, what really counts is love from the heart, manifested in the good works for one’s neighbor.

We have modern-day Pharisees too (myself included) like those told in the Gospel. Thanks be to God, we still have the chance to examine ourselves and amend our lives. On reflection, God made me what I am and gave me what I have. How is my gratitude to Him manifested? Do I faithfully use for Him and the mission his gifts to me? Is there an area in my life where I do not acknowledge his sovereignty? May I strive to be guided by what the Holy Scriptures say: “There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes.” Heb. 4:13; “…He will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purposes of people’s minds.”1 Cor. 4: 5; “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7.

The Church remembers today St. Rose of Lima, the patroness of Latin America and the secondary patroness of the Philippines. She did not glory in her physical beauty. Her inner beauty was exemplary: a life of charity especially to the poor and the sick, and she did acts of morti cation to please God. May St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Bartolomew who was known to be a doctor in the Jewish law, a dear friend of St. Philip the Apostle. Bartholomew and Nathanael in today’s gospel are the same person under different names. Because Bartholomew was a man “in whom there was no guile,” his mind was open to the truth. He went willingly with Philip to see Christ, and recognized the Savior immediately as the Son of God. (Fr. Frances Grace Solis, S.Sp.S. CHS, Tarlac Bible Diary 2016)



Meditating further on Jesus’ words, we glean these reflections:

  • True living out of faith means exercising basic and proper human relations. Jesus declared that the weightier things are justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Justice means giving each person what is due him/her. Like justice, mercy refers to the proper disposition of one member of the community towards another member. Faithfulness or fidelity is truthfulness in relationship – with God and with fellow human beings.
  • True living out of the faith is putting more importance to persons than to things. Mint, dill, and cumin are herbs. Jesus criticized how the Pharisees and scribes paid so much attention to the proper accounting of what is one-tenth value of these than to the accounting of what must be due to human beings by way of justice, mercy and faithfulness (Fr. Domie Guzman SSP New Every Morning New Everyday p. 258)


August 28, 2012

St. Augustine, bishop and doctor

2 Thes 2:1-3a, 14-17
Ps 96
Mt 23:23-26

Neglect for Weightier Things

[Jesus said], 23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others. 24Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”


Strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! This expression is a hyperbole for neglecting one’s main and principal duties. The scribes and Pharisees are preoccupied with small and insignificant matters, like paying tithes of mint and dill and cummin, rather than the essential points of God’s laws, such as justice, mercy, and fidelity.

The Gospel also shows that the primary concern of these religious leaders is on external appearances, thus ignoring the internal and essential. What matters to Jesus is change of heart, conversion, and a reformed lifestyle.

What do you consider essential and important in our life? 
How do you practice God’s justice, mercy, and fidelity?



Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to perfect it (Mt. 5:17) by showing us what is most fundamental to the Law – justice, mercy and faith. At the level of these fundamentals, law is grounded in love, or in other words, love is the law. The word “religion” is said to have originated from the Latin roots religare meaning “to bind again.” There are two ways to bind people. We can bind them in knots so as to snuff the life out of them. Or we can reconnect them with God and others in loving communion.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom Jesus chastises today practiced religion in life-negating manner by insisting on peripheral obligations and forgetting the life-affirming essentials of justice, mercy and faith. They are far concerned about the external observance of religion than the internal transformation in freedom that practice of religion should lead one to (Bible Diary 2013 Claretian Publications).


August 23, 2016

REFLECTION: One of the great differences between Catholics and Protestants lies in our understanding of how God’s Revelation reaches us. The Protestants maintain that it reaches us through the intermediary of a book, the Bible, and only through the written Bible. And one of the rallying cries of the Reformers was “Sola Scriptura!” On the other hand, the Catholics have always maintained that divine Revelation comes to us through both the Bible and Tradition. In the terms of Vatican II: “It is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence (Const. Verbum Dei, n.9).

Now this position of the Church is based on the fact that a good part of the New Testament (particularly the four gospels) was put down in writing decades after the Ascension. It was oral tradition which transmitted Christ’s teaching during that time.

We find this situation reflected in today’s first reading, an excerpt from a letter of Paul written most probably in 52 A.D., much before the first gospel was written. It says: “Hold to the traditions that we taught you by word.”



AN ANGRY JESUS? – As a teenager, I had some problems with Chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel. Today and tomorrow, our readings will come from this chapter. I called it the “most un-Christian chapter in the New Testament.” Why?

Because I could not imagine how Jesus could use such harsh words. Didn’t Jesus teach that we have to love even our enemies? And now He uses harsh words and lambasts the Pharisees?

When I studied Scriptures, I received new insights into this chapter. First, I learned that the very strong word “hypocrite” originally meant “stage actor,” and so doesn’t have the sting as it has when we use it today. Secondly, did Jesus really say everything we read in this chapter, or was it Matthew who put these condemnations on Jesus’ lips?

Matthew wrote this Gospel for a Jewish-Christian community which was threatened by rabbis from the sect of the Pharisees to abandon their belief in Christ and return to the fold of the Law of Moses. Could it be, as in other cases, that the evangelist thought: “If Jesus were here, what would He say? Would He not use the strongest words possible to paint the threatening Pharisees in the darkest colors possible and encourage the Jewish-Christians not to listen to them and remain faithful to Him?”

Nevertheless, whatever the reason behind Jesus’ strong words, we accept it as part of the Word of God that has an impact on our lives.

Through the media, we are exposed to anti-Christian propaganda. On TV, we are told how wrong our Catholic faith and practice is. We are told that we don’t do what the Bible says. We are told that with our statues we are idolaters. Since they confuse God’s beloved flock, maybe He would use words similar to those in Chapter 23. Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD

REFLECTION QUESTION: Are you influenced by the media, which threatens your Catholic faith?

Lord, as in the time of Matthew, there are many forces that threaten my faith today. Help me to remain faithful and to separate always the “weeds” from the “wheat.”



SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT LEGALISM AND HYPOCRISY – I will never forget that good old lady who lamented that the people around her don’t like her. She said, “I do everything that the Lord wants me to do. I hear Mass every day, attend the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Wednesdays, go to confession every week…” and so the litany of her religious deeds. She seemed to do everything to look good in church, but…

When I came to know some of her neighbors, I got a totally different picture of this “holy” lady. She was a terrible gossiper, destroying the names and reputation of people around her. Not only that, she was also a terror to the kids in the neighborhood. Whenever I read today’s Gospel passage, I cannot help but remember this lady. Of course, she is an extreme case, but doesn’t the devil of legalism and hypocrisy lurk in all of us? We might not go to the extreme as the lady I mentioned, but we are not immune when it comes to hypocrisy.

Why is hypocrisy so tempting and why do many of us fall into its trap without realizing it? We are all concerned with looking good to others but at times we miss to be or to do good. It is easier to project a good image than practice what such an image requires.

Jesus never pretended to be what He was not. And this honesty is one of the reasons that brought Him to the Cross. It is the honesty of the prophets of old who pointed out the evils in their society. And nobody could tell them, “Look first at yourself.” For this honesty, for speaking the truth about the hypocrisy in their society, they were persecuted like Jesus.

That’s another reason why hypocrisy is so attractive — one avoids being criticized or even persecuted — unless a Jesus or a prophet comes and points out that legalism and hypocrisy can fool people but will never fool God.Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD

REFLECTION QUESTIONS: What do you do in daily life to make others think well of you? What do you do secretly to please God?

Lord, I thank You that You help me live without a mask, and to please you rather than the people around me. Amen.



See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

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