Hypocrisy and Blindness
Malvern Minute

 

August 28, 2017 – Monday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Augustine, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

Mark J. Poletunow, Malvern President (mpoletunow@malvernretreat.com)

Click for: Readings for the day (From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (23:13-22)

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

 

Reflect: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. In today’s gospel, Jesus is going strong after his adversaries. He is challenging their motives and purpose.  Why? At the root is the practice of binding their followers to the letter of the law without understanding why or for whom the law exists. Every jot and tittle needs to be observed, but it is done without faith. At the same time, Jesus is addressing this teaching not only directly to the scribes and Pharisees, but “to the crowds and his disciples” as well. That means that he is also speaking to each of us. He wants us to pause to assess our own motivations. As we examine our conscience in the light of the Holy Spirit, we should reflect about whether we are we being faithful to what Jesus teaches, are we being faithful to the commandments – and if we are, are we doing it for the right reasons? Our faithfulness to Jesus and to his teachings should lead us to growth in relationship with the Lord. If we are faithful only to puff up our own pride, if we are faithful out of fear, if we are faithful to check off a daily box of things to do, then it’s time for readjustment.  Today we commemorate Saint Augustine who was a great sinner but became a great Saint; not by his own accord, but by his willingness to have a heart and mind open to the movement of the Holy Spirit that led him to a great conversion. How might Jesus be calling each of us today to leave behind our own hypocrisy and blindness for a deeper conversion of heart?

Questions: What motivates me and for what purpose do I live my faith? Do I externally complete my required obligations, but hold resentment, hatred and judgment for others in my heart? Do I live my faith to satisfy myself or to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus?

Pray: Loving God, help me to love you as I ought. Purify my heart and mind so that I can genuinely grow in relationship with you and give authentic witness of your love and mercy to the world.  I pray this in the powerful and perfect name of Jesus. Amen.

Saint Augustine: Pray for us!

Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste, North Africa. After living an atheistic and pleasure seeking life, he entered the Church at the age of thirty-two. His conversion is often attributed to the faithful prayer of his mother, Saint Monica. After his baptism by Saint Ambrose in 386, he was ordained, and it 395 elected Bishop of Hippo. His more than 1,700 writings include sermons, treatises, scriptural commentaries, the spiritual classic Confessions and the magisterial City of God. He is considered a founder of monastic life in the West. Augustine is one of the four great doctors of the Latin Church; he is called the “Doctor of Grace.” At the end of his life, Augustine requested that the seven penitential psalms be copied in large print and hung in his room. He constantly recited them to himself for the ten days leading up to his death on August 28, 430.

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