“Was Jesus a Republican or Democrat!?” – Mt 23:27-32†


 

Exactly four months till CHRISTmas day!  That is 122 days, or 17 weekends, 107 weekdays, and about 100 or so school days.  Isn’t everybody excited NOW!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1282 – Death of Thomas Cantilupe, English saint
†   1624 – Birth of François de la Chaise, French confessor of Louis XIV of France (d. 1709)
†   Liturgical Feasts: Genesius of Arles; Saint Louis IX of France; Saint Joseph Calasanz.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. — Francis of Assisi

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ “calling-out the Scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites!”

  

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.  29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’  31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; 32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!  (NAB Mt 23:27-32)

 

The gospel today is a diatribe of criticism and censure by Jesus to the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem.  Jesus is definitely driving home a point by literally calling the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites!”  While a deep antagonism and conflict existed between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees, and is well founded in the various clashes between them, this tongue-lashing reflects a deep disagreement that probably goes beyond that of Jesus’ ministry.  This disparity needs to be seen as expressing the bitter conflict that still existed between the Jewish Pharisees and the early Jewish-Catholic Church of Matthew’s time later in the first century A.D., long after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven body, soul, blood, and divinity.

Jesus’ speech is not purely anti-Pharisaic though.  Matthew observes in “his” Jewish-Catholic Church, many of the same faults that Jesus found prevalent in the Pharisaic Jewish temples of Jesus’ time on earth.  Matthew is warning his fellow Christians, through this Gospel reading and Jesus’ words, to look at their own conduct and attitudes: to not fall into the same trap the Scribes and Pharisees fell into.   

The sixth “woe” —  about bright and gleaming tombs with rotting flesh and bones inside, just as  the preceding “woe” (not in this reading) about cleansing the outside of the cup, but not the inside, —  deals with a concern for externals, and the neglect of what is inside oneself.  Jesus is telling the temple officials that although they appear “whitewashed” on the outside, they are full of dead bones and filth on the inside.  I can picture Him being visibly upset, and nearly yelling at those church officials present, while stretching out his arm with a finger pointed at each of them.

Do you know anyone who always has to have the newest fashion, yet snub their nose at others they feel live “beneath” them?  Have you ever done this, and don’t answer to quickly!?  Let me throw a few sentences at you, and see if any come even close to something you may have said:

  • How do you like my new haircut?
  • See my new cell phone.  It has all the best gadgets on it.
  • My family ALWAYS vacations in Florida.
  • My children can’t go anywhere but _______! Fill in the elite and very expensive ivy-league type high school in the area.  (I purposely left out a few very specific names of schools in my area, as to not grossly offend someone.  There were several I could use, including a couple of [sadly] Catholic High Schools in the area, which gives the impression they are TOO GOOD for the average person.)
  • Let me pay the bill with my “platinum” credit card.

All of these sentences carry the sins of pride, greed, and envy; plus, depending on the circumstance, also the sins of gluttony and sloth.  Besides these 3-5 “capitol or cardinal” sins, the person saying anything similar to this is extremely close to breaking the 8th and 10th Commandments (Thou shall not bear a false witness, and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property, respectfully). 

Contact with dead bodies during Jesus’ time on earth, even if the person was unaware, caused ritual impurity for that person.  Ritual uncleanness was, for all essence, contagious and the individual was separated from the temple and society.  This is why people with a skin disease such as leprosy were not allowed in the cities, much less the temples.  Any impropriety with cleanliness, religious or personal was scrutinized, and the person treated severely.    For this reason, tombs were white-washed so that one would not contract any impurity inadvertently.

The final “woe,” is the most serious of the seven mentioned in this Gospel chapter.  It is nothing less than that of an indictment from Jesus.   It portrays the temple Scribes and Pharisees position and status in society, as being in the same relationship of their ancestors “who murdered the prophets and the righteous.”

The Scribes and Pharisees honored the murdered prophets of old, by building tombs, and then decorating their memorials with trinkets and gems.  Plus, the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time asserted that they would have not participated in their ancestors’ crimes of murdering the prophets if they had lived during their ancestor’s period of time.  Jesus made a very clear and profound statement in declaring the Scribes and Pharisees as being most definitely the “true” children of their ancestors.  The Scribes and Pharisees were boldly ordered by Jesus to “fill up what those ancestors measured out!”  This order manifests the Jewish belief that there was a specific allotment, a measure, of suffering that had to be completed prior to God’s final judgment taking place.

What do you think the crowd listening to Jesus this day were thinking and doing?  Some in the crowd were probably nodding their heads in total agreement, while others (especially the Scribes and Pharisees) were visibly upset or confused at what Jesus was saying to them in a very public way.  Do you think the majority of the crowd was happy and elated that Jesus “called out” the “quasi-politicians” of the Jewish religion?  Or, do you believe the majority present was upset that He was attacking the temple officials that took care of their specific spiritual needs. 

Was Jesus looked upon as the “outsider” attacking the “incumbent,” similar to how present day politics work?  Rhetorically, was Jesus a Republican or Democrat?  My answer is WHO CARES: but I believe the correct answer is neither.  Jesus’ political party was that of “Messiah and Savior from God!”

All communities have its portion of trouble-makers, but I prefer to call them “Sh!t-disturbers” because they enjoy the ability to “stir the cr@p!”  These people have a tendency to abuse the generosity of others, similar to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time that is preached about in today’s Gospel reading.

For us reading and reflecting on this Gospel today, Jesus is simply giving us another example of how important our example is to others, for as St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”

 

“Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament”

 

“We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You, because,
by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Louis IX, King of France 1215-1270

 

Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order

 

King St. Louis was born in the castle at Poissy near Paris on April 25, 1215. His devout mother, Blanche, was determined that he should be educated not only for the earthly kingdom he was to govern, but still more for the kingdom of heaven. She accustomed him to look upon all things in the light of faith, and thus laid the foundation for that humility in good fortune and endurance in misfortune which characterized the holy king.

Louis was crowned king when he was only 12 years old. His mother, however, was entrusted with the actual government of the kingdom during his minority. Meanwhile, Louis was being educated in all the duties of a Christian prince. Among his instructors there were several Franciscan friars, and later on the young king himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Louis had governed his kingdom for several years in his own name, when he vowed, in the course of a serious illness, that if he would recover, he would make a crusade to the Holy Land, to wrest the holy places from the hands of the infidels. Upon regaining his health he at once carried out his vow. He took the fortress of Damietta from the Saracens, but was taken captive after his army had been weakened by an epidemic.

After he had borne the sufferings of a prisoner of the infidels for several months with holy serenity, the terms for his release were submitted to him; but there was attached to these terms an oath, that if he did not fulfill them, he would deny Christ and the Christian religion. The holy king replied: “Such blasphemous words shall never cross my lips.” They threatened him with death. “Very well,” he said, “you may kill my body, but you will never kill my soul.” Filled with admiration at his steadfast courage, the finally released him without objectionable condition. After securing many other terms favorable to the Christians, he was obliged to return to France, since his mother had died in the meantime.

In the government of his kingdom, Louis proved how profitable piety is in every respect. He promoted the welfare of the country and his people in a remarkable manner. His life as a Christian and as a Christian father was so exemplary that he has been found worthy to be chosen as the patron and model of Tertiaries. The most important principal of his life was the observance of the laws of God under all circumstances. His biographer assures us that he never lost his baptismal innocence by mortal sin. He himself set such store by the grace of baptism that, in confidential letters, he took pleasure in signing himself “Louis of Poissy,” because it was in the parish church there that he had been baptized.

Louis never tolerated cursing or sinful conversation either among the servants or among the courtiers; and never was he heard to utter an unkind or impatient word. he wished to avoid all unnecessary pomp and luxury at court, so that more help could be rendered to the poor, of whom he personally fed and served several hundred. His wardrobe was as simple as it could fittingly be, and at all times he wore the insignia of the Third Order under his outer garments. On special occasions he publicly wore the habit of the Tertiaries.

In order to curb sensuality he not only observed all the fasts of the Church with unusual severity, but denied himself certain food for which he had a special craving. He was a most solicitous father to the 11 children with which God blessed his marriage. He himself prayed with them daily, examined them in the lessons they had learned, guided them in the performance of the works of Christian charity, and in his will bequeathed to them the most beautiful instructions.

He fostered special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and it was a great consolation for him when he gained possession of the Crown of Thorns, for the preservation of which he had the magnificent Holy Chapel built in Paris. When serious complaints concerning the oppression of the Christians in the Holy Land reached his ears, he undertook a second crusade in 1270, but on the way he died of the plague, contracted while visiting his sick soldiers.

Amid exclamations of holy joy because he was going into the house of the Lord, he surrendered his soul to God on August 25. St. Louis was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25 of 26:

 

Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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