The Pharisees Among Us

Luke 11: 42-46
Rom 2: 1-11 / Ps 62:2-3,6-7,9

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
(Luke 11:42)

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! Because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.” One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:42-46)

Reflection

The Pharisees represented everything that was repulsive to our Lord, Who knew all of their thoughts and attitudes. They gave God “a tenth of (their) mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but (they) neglect justice and the love of God.” They were so meticulous in observing their man-made laws (like tithing even their garden herbs!) that they had neglected their more important role of shepherding the Jewish people in the righteousness and mercy of God. The Jews had gone astray from the laws of God because of their example.

In their meticulous observance of man-made laws (like tithing even on herbs), the Pharisees neglected the more important things in their ministry, like rendering just laws, and humbling themselves before God. Instead, they sought the adulation of men, thus their spiritual lives became as lifeless as forgotten graves. 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 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. And 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 the prosecution of graft and corruption cases will finally find resolution. It’s the same case with some of our judges and lawyers, who are no different from the scribes that our Lord likewise condemned. In today’s first reading, St. Paul reminds them: “You are storing up for yourself a great punishment on the day of judgment, when God will appear as a righteous Judge. He will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Rom.2:5-6)

Without realizing it, many of us may also be in danger of being “pharisaical” if we believe that our good works have ensured our passage to heaven, or that people who are not members of any religious community cannot avail of God’s grace of salvation. We can never be the judge of our spiritual standing in the eyes of God, nor the status of other people in their relationship with their Maker. We can only thank God that through the great sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed from our sins in His mercy.

No other law must rule, only Your divine law of love, dear God. Grant that Your law may rule the hearts of our political leaders for prosperity to reign in our land. Please remind us also that we can never do anything to merit Your gift of salvation; that we must always abide by all Your commandments, so that we will not lose this grace that is available to us through the love and passion of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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