The Lot of ‘Pharisees and Scribes’

Luke 11: 42-46
Rom 2:1-11 / Ps 62

Woe to you! For you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.
(Luke 11:44)

What laws on earth could guarantee
Our passage to eternity?
Man-made laws have been man’s burden,
Roadblocks on his way to heaven.

The Lord addressed the Jews who had come to him, “Woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.” One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! You load men with burdens hard to bear, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (Luke 11:42-46)


In their meticulous observance of man-made laws (like tithing even on herbs), the Pharisees neglected their more important duties, like rendering just laws, and being humble before God and men. Instead, they sought the adulation of the Jews, thus their spiritual lives became as lifeless as forgotten graves. They took pride in avoiding things ‘unclean’ – like white-washed tombs appearing clean outside– yet are rotten with pride and hypocrisy inside. Jesus is saying that people who come in contact with them are actually contaminated by their uncleanness without knowing it.

The lawyers, or scribes, likewise felt imputed by Christ’s condemnation, because they were the ones who crafted the laws that were almost impossible for the ordinary folks to observe.

Wasn’t it President Manuel Roxas who said, “Those who have less in life must have more in law”? But how pathetically ironic that like the people of Palestine in Jesus’ time, it is the ordinary people who are suffering under the yoke of laws crafted by our legislators, and interpreted by our lawyers in complicated legalese. Thousands of men and women who have less in life are either languishing in jails, or sinking deeper in debt as their cases seek resolution in the turtle pace of our justice system.

How like the Pharisees our congressmen and senators strut about in self-importance while their constituents wonder when needed reforms in the justice system, or in the prosecution of their colleagues involved in the pork barrel scam will finally be carried out. Likewise with some of our judges and lawyers, who are not far from the scribes that our Lord also condemned, whose “judicial shenanigans” have recently been exposed by investigative journalists as “another Napoles in the judiciary”.

In today’s first reading, St. Paul may well be reminding them: “By your stubbornness and impenitent hearts, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, and revelation of His righteous judgment. God will render to every person according to what he has done.” (Rom.2:5-6)

Lord, grant us the grace to realize that there is no substitute for what is honest, just, and moral, and no amount of human laws crafted by the most brilliant minds can ever change even one letter of these timeless values of Your Divine Law. No other law must rule, only Your law of love. Grant, dear God that Your law may rule the hearts of our political leaders for prosperity to reign in our land. Amen.

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