30 August
Mt 23:27-32

Jesus said,Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.”

St John Chrysostom (344/354 – 407) is able to give as good as that anonymous 5th-century author we met yesterday.  “You have been counted worthy to become temples of God. But you have instead suddenly become more like sepulchres, having the same sort of smell. This is dreadful. It is extreme wretchedness that one in whom Christ dwells and in whom the Holy Spirit has worked such great works should turn out to be a sepulchre, a place for death. What wretchedness is this? What mourning and lamentation does this call for...! You were intended to be a temple without fault, beautiful, not adorned with gold or pearls but with the spirit that is more precious than these.... You carry around a dead soul. You are shunned.  Be honest.  If anyone were to go around carrying about a dead body, wouldn’t everyone else rush for cover!  Wouldn’t they all flee?  But this is what you are like. You go about carrying a corpse far more grievous than this. It is a soul deadened by sins, a soul paralysed.” 

The Pharisees have always been sitting ducks for Christian preachers.  “The true prophet says humbly, ‘To me, a sinner, God spoke.’ But the scribes and Pharisees declare, ‘When we speak, God agrees.’ They feel no need of a special revelation, for they are always, in their own view, infallible.  It is this self-righteousness of the pious that most breeds atheism, by inspiring all decent, ordinary people with loathing of the enormous lie.”  It is clear, of course, that the person who wrote that wasn't thinking only of the historical Pharisees.  The reason they continue to be so popular is that they are still breeding. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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