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A team of 200 priests comment on daily Gospel

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Liturgical day: Tuesday 21st in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (1Thess 2:1-8): You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle. Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives, nor did it work through deception. But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts.

Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know, or with a pretext for greed —God is witness— nor did we seek praise from men, either from you or from others, although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ. Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.
Responsorial Psalm: 138
R/. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, o Lord, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.
Versicle before the Gospel (Heb 4:12): Alleluia. The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Mt 23,23-26): Jesus said, «Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you pay the tenth of everything, but then you forget what is most fundamental in the Law: justice, mercy and faith. These you must practice, without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified».

«Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified»

Fr. Austin NORRIS
(Mumbai, India)

Today we seem to catch Jesus in a foul mood —someone must have really got him upset; upset with false religiosity, pompous claims and egoistic piety. He has sensed the lack of love, i.e., «justice, mercy and faith» (Mt 23:23), behind the superficial actions of trying to fulfill the Law. Jesus embodies all these in his person and ministry. He was justice, mercy and faith. His actions, miracles, healings and pronouncements exuded all these true fundamentals which flowed from his loving heart. For Jesus, it was not the matter of the law, but the matter of the heart…

Even in the words of chastisement, we see a hand of love held out by Jesus, to those who would want to come back to the basics: «You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God» (Micah 6:8). Pope Francis said: «A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient... Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God's love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful!».

«Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified» (Mt 23:26). How true this is for each of us! We know how personal cleanliness makes us feel fresh and vibrant within and without. Even more so in the spiritual and moral realm, our inner self/spirit, if clean and wholesome, will shine forth in good deeds and actions, that «will glorify God and render him true homage» (Jn 5:23). Let us look at the bigger picture of love, justice and faith and not settle for the smaller nitty-gritty which consume our time and make us small and petty. Let us jump into the vast ocean of God’s love and not be satisfied with the rivulets of pettiness.

«Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified»

Brother Lluís SERRA i Llançana
(Roma, Italy)

Today, Jesus assumes a clear attitude of diatribe: «Woe to you (...)! Woe to you (...)!» (Mt 23:23-25). His objectives are the scribes and the Pharisees, who represent the powerful class exerting a spiritual and moral influence over people. How can they ever lead people if they are “blind guides”? Their blindness lies in the incoherency of scrupulously observing the small details, which do have importance, while neglecting the weightier things of the Law, such as justice, love and fidelity. They are concerned over their own image, but it does not correspond to their inside, full of «plunder and self-indulgence» (Mt 23:25). Curiously enough, Jesus, uses here words referring to economic aspects.

Today's Gospel represents an invitation for those persons and most outstanding groups of the Christian communities, that is, their guides, to appraise their conscience. Do we respect the fundamental values? Do we value norms more than people? Do we impose upon others what we cannot do, ourselves? Do we speak from the complacency of our own ideas or from our humility of heart? As Dom Helder Camara said: «I would like to be a puddle of water to become the mirror of heaven». Do people consider their pastors, men of God who can tell the accessory from the fundamental? Feebleness deserves understanding, but hypocresy provokes contempt.

When listening at today's Gospel we may fall into some sort of snare. Jesus speaks to the scribes and to the Pharisees, who are hypocrites, for there were also who were not. And we may conclude that this text, today, may be intended for bishops and priests, only. As guides of the Christian communities they must certainly be careful not to tumble upon those attitudes denounced by God, but we must also remember that every believer —man or woman— may harbor in his inside a “blind Pharisee”. Jesus invites us to: «Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean» (Mt 23:26). The path to spirituality is through the human heart.