THE PHARISEE IN US

Sep 2, 2018

A newly-installed bishop who holds a doctor’s degree in Canon Law gave his first talk to the clergy. He solemnly declared: “Henceforth this diocese will be ruled by Canon Law. An old priest who was hard of hearing leaned to a young priest sitting beside him and asked, “What did he say?” Raising his voice for everybody to hear, the priest replied, “The bishop says, ‘Henceforth this diocese will be RUINED BY THE CANON LAW.” Rules and traditions are good but when carried in the wrong spirit, they can indeed “RUIN” people. That is why Christ rebuked the Pharisee (religious leaders) during his time for their unbending legalism and self-righteousness.

One such attitude is when these fault-finding leaders criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before eating (Mk. 7, 2). We must understand that this and other dietary customs of the time were not mere social amenities (like putting your napkin on your lap when you sit in a restaurant). Rather, these were religious traditions intended to manifest an inner piety. As such these religious practices were not bad. What Christ opposed was the Pharisees’ attitude that such formal and merely external actions constituted a person’s religion. Worse, these leaders were using them to boost their own egos, to show to the public how pious and sanctimonious they were.

We have to admit that we behave much like the legalistic Pharisees at times. We judge ourselves as “practicing” Catholics when we fulfill our obligations of going to Sunday Mass, receiving Holy Communion and wearing a scapular or medal. These forms of piety are not discouraged. They are, however, dangerous because they could lead to mere externalism and complacency in religion. The main point here, from Christ’s teaching in the gospel, is that merely external practices do not make us religious.

Singing the hymns and saying the prayers aloud within the Mass are important. (In fact, pastors wish there were more of these in their churches.) But, if we do these things mechanically, without attention and sincere devotion, God may very well say of us, “This people pays me lip service, but their heart if far from me.” Then more and more Catholics are receiving Holy Communion these days, and that is very good. But If we are not making effort to show love to our fellowmen outside the church, to be considerate, to be honest and just, to look after the needs of the poor, then we are modern-day Pharisees indeed. External pious practices are no guarantee of being devout and holy. God requires a piety which involves not only our prayers but also our conduct and behavior, not only our lips but also our hearts. One without the other is hypocritical. God Bless!

#58. AN ANECDOTE ON HYPOCRICY: A visitor in Poland was being shown around (during the Communist times) by a party official. The visitor said, “Are you Catholic?” and the official answered, “Believing, but not practicing.” The visitor later asked, “Are you a communist?” The official smiled and said, “Practicing, but not believing.” Application: Are our words and actions as disciples of Jesus consistent with our belief in Him?

In this first week of September, on the 3rd, we have the memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church. He preferred to be called “Servant of the servants of God.” It is also Labor Day in USA and Canada and my big BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION in St. Joseph Hall from 12NOON to 4PM. Lunch with Litson and Pilipino dishes will be served. It is a holiday, if you have time please come to the party. On the 7th, it is 1st.Friday, we have our devotion to the Sacred Heart. On the 8th, it is the birthday of Blessed Virgin Mary. This is all for now, watch for the next bulletin.

Your Priest-Servant and Parochial Administrator,

Fr. Reggie