Monday, February 25, 2013



Tomorrow’s (Tuesday, 2/26/13’s) Gospel reading comes from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, in which Jesus says to His disciples:

“The scribes and the Pharisees

have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

but do not follow their example.

For they preach but they do not practice.

They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry

and lay them on people’s shoulders,

but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen.

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.”

Jesus goes on describing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but you get the idea from this portion of the reading.

This is one of the most troubling and demanding of the teachings of Jesus, or at least it is for me.

One can easily see Jesus speaking not only of the Pharisees of His age, but of hypocritical elements of the religious leadership of all ages. For us, of course, the most relevant application of this teaching is to the religious leadership of this, our, age. Though obviously amplified by the mere fact that we are living through it, the hypocrisy, the pride, the obtuseness, and the utter poltroonishness of our many of our religious leaders seems to match that of any age. Just read the papers, which, of course, our hypocritical and vainglorious religious leaders tell us not to read because they are on some kind of campaign to “get” the Church. I don’t doubt that many, or at least some, elements of the press are hostile to the Catholic Church, and some are antagonistic toward all churches. But if the Church’s tone deaf, generally out of touch, and full of itself leadership didn’t give its enemies so much ammunition, perhaps the Church wouldn’t be pounded as hard and as often as it is currently being pummeled, generally deservedly so. But I digress.

Why is this reading so troubling? Because Jesus tells us to “do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,” despite their hypocrisy, greed, pride, and general display of those attributes that will surely separate us from God. Therefore, if Jesus is talking to us through the ages, He is telling us to “do and observe all things whatsoever” (Matthew, 23, 3) the Church leadership tells us despite, in the eyes of many Catholics (and in the eyes of many Christians of their own church leadership), the many shortcomings of many in that leadership.

I, for one, do not want to “do and observe all things whatsoever” I am taught by elements of the Church’s (and other Christian denominations’) leadership who are silly, two-faced, out of touch, full of themselves, pompous, fatuous, mendacious, falsely pious, criminal…or worse. This is indeed one of those passages in which I hope that Jesus doesn’t mean what He appears to mean. Can you imagine the abuse to which these words can be put? Oh, wait…we’ve already seen the abuse to which such words can be put.

He can’t mean this; can He? Perhaps it is a question of who holds true teaching authority, the latter day equivalent of the “seat(s) on the chair of Moses.” Perhaps many who think they occupy such seats occupy them only in their own minds. Or at least I hope so.

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