Tag Archives: Pharisees

Heart Surgery

True Bodily and Spiritual Enlightenment of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Church of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais, Paris, France). Licensed by Châtillon under CC-BY-SA-4.0

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

After the Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the five thousand, and numerous signs and wonders, Jesus was causing quite a stir. Without summoning, this ordinary son of a carpenter in Galilee compelled the most elite members of Israel to journey all the way from Jerusalem to ask him a question.

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”

The question was not about hygiene, but about the very foundations of Judaism. Levitical laws and tradition drew a sharp line between what was “clean” and “unclean,” and developed complex regulations for ceremonial washing in order to approach the all-holy God. Failure to comply with these rules gave the impression of impiety or sacrilege. 

Tunnel vision caused by prolonged squinting at the fine print of the law and centuries of accretions made the lawyers forget the basics. In large print, on tablets of stone, Moses had presented the Decalogue with natural precepts like, “Honor your father and your mother.” 

Legal sophistry found loopholes to avoid the care of elderly parents:

But you say, ‘Whoever says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God,” need not honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition. (Matthew 15:5)

The Pharisees and scribes made it legal to dedicate money and property to the Temple with this unloving intention. God was being used. Such sophistries drove a wedge between love of God and love of neighbor. The first commandment was used to violate the second.

The divine physician had Israel on the operating table for heart surgery, without any anesthesia.

“Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said: 
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9)

He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” 

Food and ceremonial laws were external rituals that did not reach the depths of the heart, our “hidden center… the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2563). The indestructible temple of the Holy Spirit is the human heart, the first place that must be cleansed and nourished. 

Deep, authentic conversion is an arduous process requiring painful heart surgery. Far easier is a program of superficial rituals that only cleanses the outside of the cup. Few have the courage to face themselves. 

Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Any law or practice that violates the single precept of love of God and love of neighbor “will be uprooted.” 

The Good Shepherd laid down his life to rescue the least lamb fallen into a pit, mangled alongside their blind shepherds in the hollow.

The scribes and Pharisees were to be let alone to respond to grace. As we are one Body in Christ, their heart surgery is our very own.

-GMC

“A bruised reed he will not break”

Byzantine icon, The Good Shepherd

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 

What a rabble-rouser, this Jesus! Picking grain on the sabbath, and then healing a man with a withered hand—in the synagogue, of all places! How dare he lecture the authorities on “doing good on the sabbath”! Such were the thoughts fomenting among the Pharisees. Buried alive under the letter of the law, their hearts turned stone cold when confronted with their twisted ethic of prioritizing an animal on the sabbath over a human being (Matthew 12:11). 

When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.

There was no point in contending or debating. The hearts of the Pharisees were dead set against him. Another word from him would only add kindling to the fire.

Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.

People were suffering, and so the work of healing and mercy must go on. Jesus acted according to his nature; he could not do otherwise. Love must prevail over all obstacles, even the threat of death. The nature of divine love, however, is unassuming: it acts but seeks no credit. Goodness is as natural, abundant, pervasive, and invisible as the air everyone breathes. What need was there for any special recognition?

This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.

The Spirit-filled servant prophesied by Isaiah flowed as gently as water over hard and sharp rocks, but just as invincibly—smoothing them over time and conquering them by love. Uncontentious and without fanfare, the lamb of God came to lead the weak and frail to victory in the valley of humility. 

And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

-GMC

Another Point of View

Close-up view of wheat. Licensed by Bluemoose under CC BY-SA 3.0.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”

If the wheat plants in this story could speak, they might shake their heads in wonder and ask, “Who is picking on who?”

As Jesus and his disciples were picking their heads of grain, a bunch of busybody Pharisees with wandering eyes began to pick on the pickers. 

A strange scenario! The wheat, for their part, joyfully welcomed the Lord of the sabbath to pick their heads and eat them. That is what they were made for. Never was a greater “honor” bestowed on wheat than to nourish their own Maker, though honor was not in their vocabulary. 

The whole field pricked up their wheat ears as Jesus explained: “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat?”

Silent applause. A glorious day in the history of wheat was being recounted, when the youthful David, the great champion over Goliath and future king of Israel, nourished himself and his companions with the holy bread at the hands of the noble priest Ahimelech (I Samuel 21:1-6). 

“Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent?”

Deep silence. How were the Pharisees going to respond to that obvious incongruity in their charge against Jesus? If picking grain on the Sabbath was unlawful, why not the more laborious work of temple sacrifice and ritual?

All of this sounded like nonsense to the wheat, for whom nature was simple and straightforward. When a creature was hungry, it ate. When thirsty, it drank. Every day belonged to the Lord of creation; simply to exist was to give him praise. The rules and regulations of humankind were simply baffling, and not a little unnatural (in the humble opinion of the wheat). 

“I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Thunderous silent applause from the acres of wheat surrounding the conversation. Mercy! What a novel idea! Didn’t the humans realize that to be was to be merciful? To live was to love? The wheat knew this and gave thanks continually for the sun and soil, water and air, and the diligent hands of the farmer who nurtured them day after day. The simplest things eluded the most intellectual of creatures. 

As Jesus and his disciples departed, the Spirit of the Lord whispered to the wheat, “Today you have nourished your Maker and become his Body and Blood. In days to come you will work with me to divinize his brothers and sisters by feeding them his Body and Blood.”

The wheat entered into a silent alliance with the Spirit but did not consider it an honor. Their obedience was wholly spontaneous and unself-conscious.

-GMC

The Royal Image

Mark 12:13-17

“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”

The Pharisees and the Herodians thought they had Jesus cornered. Popular political figures at the time like Judas the Gaulonite had rallied many devout Jews to view Caesar as an enemy of religion; God alone was their ruler. If Jesus answered “yes,” he would lose his followers. If he answered “no,” they could report him to the Roman authorities as a rebel and be rid of him.

Jesus was completely unfazed. He answered their question with another question. Looking at a Roman coin in their possession he asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” Out of their own mouth came the reply, “Caesar’s.” Then came Jesus’ unforgettable response: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

It’s not that God is not sovereign over the whole world, but earthly governance also has its proper sphere. Render to earthly authorities what is theirs, Jesus says, but what is everlasting and permanent—your very persons—give to God. Earthly coins corrode and decay, but the image of God stamped upon you lasts forever. We are the coin of God (St. Augustine). God’s image and inscription are imprinted upon our humanity. 

The hypocrisy displayed in this episode came to its climax before Pontius Pilate when Jesus was handed over to be crucified. The chief priests themselves said, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)

-GMC

22nd Sunday C: Friend, Come Up Higher

Listen to audio:

Meals of every kind are described in the New Testament. Jesus begins his ministry at a wedding banquet in Cana in Galilee, John’s gospel says. Before his death, he has a meal with his disciples and after his resurrection he has some meals with them again. Martha and Mary and his friends in Bethany celebrate the return of Lazarus from the dead at a meal. His enemies say he ate too many meals with tax-collectors and sinners. Some of Jesus’ most profound teachings and actions take place at a meal.

Today in our reading from Luke’s gospel Jesus is invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, but this meal is different from those just mentioned. They were carefully watching him, the gospel says. At a Sabbath meal God is thanked for his gifts, which he gives to all, but at this meal Jesus is being watched. He’s not an ordinary guest as he enters this home. He’s there to be measured and grilled by his hosts and put in his place.

At the time of Jesus it wasn’t unusual for a symposium to take place at a meal, especially in the home of someone like the leading Pharisee in today’s gospel. A symposium was an occasion when there would be a discussion of issues: questions would be raised, controversial matters would be debated. It was a time for people with quick wits and sharp tongues to show off how smart they were.

At this meal Jesus was going to be discussed; questions and controversies about him would be brought up and he would be disposed of. So we might imagine the guests at the Pharisee’s home on that occasion were like spectators at a prize fight, looking for the best seats to watch and maybe even take part in the contest themselves.

If this meal was a symposium, and I think it was, listen carefully to Jesus’ words to those who were there. He doesn’t just tell his hearers about common etiquette; he reminds them what this meal should be all about. This is a Sabbath meal. It’s a time for thanking God for the gift of life. It’s a time for rejoicing, not for showing off how smart you are. This is time when God calls us up higher. “Friend, come up higher.” From our small places here on earth, from the smallness we might consider our lives to be, God calls us up higher. It’s not a time pulling people down with your smart words.

For that same reason, this is a meal where everyone should have a place at the table, not just the wealthy and the privileged, the smart and the powerful, but “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”

Now, that’s what our Mass is about, isn’t it? Our Mass is our Sabbath meal where we give thanks for the gift of life. We give thanks to God. It’s right and just, our prayers say. We do this at all times, “always and everywhere,” but now we do it as disciples with Jesus our Lord. We listen to his word, we come to him in the bread and the wine, and through them he comes to us.

“Lift up your hearts.” “Friend, come up higher.” We lift up our hearts to the Lord. God calls us to come up higher, to see our gifts and the destiny we’re promised, to recognize our relationship with one another, to let go of the fears and doubts that cloud our minds, to feel the peace and hope God wishes us to have. The Mass prepares us for the life beyond this time. . “The Mass is ended. God in peace.” “Thanks be to God.”

Our Mass is a wonderful teacher, and we’re meant to take what it teaches and make it part of the rest of our lives. Let me give you a simple example, since we’re speaking about meals. Suppose we could make our meals, our eating together, Sabbath meals, where we enjoy the gifts of God we find in food and in one another.

That may sound like a strange suggestion. It sounds strange because eating together is becoming a endangered practice today. For one thing, a lot of people eat alone today, or if they come to a meal they might as well be eating alone.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our meals became times when we experienced those words of the gospel: “Friend, come up higher,” when we build each other up instead of tearing each other down, when we all feel welcome by others, even the stranger and the outsider, when we enjoyed the gifts of God in food and human companionship.

Entering the Circle of Believers

One of the disadvantages of reading the scriptures parceled out as they are in our daily Mass lectionary is that we can lose sight of the larger picture an evangelist like Mark is painting. He starts Jesus’ ministry with the cure of a possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum and then Jesus cures Peter’s mother in law and that brings crowds of local people to Peter’s house.

Mark’s narrative is quick and excited. They go to other towns in Galilee, and by the 3rd chapter of Mark, when Jesus returns home to Peter’s house, he’s followed by “a large number of people from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.”

They’re not the only ones following him now. The scribes have come from Jerusalem, who say he has a demon, and the Pharisees go to plot with the Herodians about putting him to death. And they hear about him in Nazareth; his relatives say, “No, he doesn’t have a demon. He may be out of his mind,” and they come to bring him home. Mark wants us to see the mother of Jesus and his brothers pushing through this noisy, confused crowd as they arrive at the house to bring him home. “Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3,31-35) Just a small circle of believers were seated around him then. VATICANCRUC

Some commentators describe Mark’s gospel as a Passion Narrative with a prelude. In other words, the early stories in Mark’s gospel announce the last story of his Passion and Death and Resurrection. Also, they see Mark’s gospel written to help the Christians of Rome who suffered a brutal, surprising persecution by Nero in the mid 60s. It was an awful persecution, senseless, arbitrary. It left them confused and wondering what did this all mean? So, even in Mark’s account of Jesus’ early ministry there’s an atmosphere of confusion and lack of understanding that was found during his Passion.

Not only do the Jewish leaders and scholars misunderstand him, not only do the crowds not understand, but his own family can’t grasp what’s happening. It’s too much for them. The Passion of our Lord is not something we easily understand, Mark’s gospel reminds us, no matter how long we look at it. It’s not easy to enter the circle of believers. But we have to keep following him. Like Mary and others from his family we have to keep going back until, like them, we finally understand. Only after Jesus dies in Mark’s Passion Narrative do you hear a word of understanding; that’s when the Roman centurion cries our, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

4th Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
Readings (Please read further for Spanish and Swahili versions)
The story of the blind man receiving his sight (John 9,1-41) is a dramatic gospel, not only because of the miracle, but because of the heated exchanges and clever dialogue found in it. Jesus and his disciples, the blind man himself, his parents and neighbors and a divided group of Pharisees all interact vigorously in the story.

Unlike others, this blind man did not approach Jesus. Rather, Jesus approached him. And remarkably, the miracle did not just restore the man’s sight. Blind from birth, he never before had the power to see. Could he represent those who can do nothing for themselves? Nothing at all, except wait for the power of God? He could be all of us.

At the sight of the woebegone beggar, Jesus’ disciples wondered: did he do something to deserve it? Some sin he or his parents had committed? No, Jesus replied. “He was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in curing him.”

It was Jesus’ message always: God wills to display his power in the poor. God’s power — healing, restoring, creating — goes out to the blind man and others like him. And as Jesus dispensed this power, so too he told his disciples “to carry on while daylight lasts the work of him who sent me.”
God’s power, not our own, is given to the poor. As Jesus’ disciples, we must work to share it with others. Then, perhaps, some of its blessing will fall on us. After all, aren’t we poor too?

“Humbly see your nothingness, never lose sight of it. Then, when His Divine Majesty makes it disappear in the Infinite All that is himself, stay there lost without seeing who you are any more. It’s not important. Follow his divine inspirations. The less you understand, the more ignorant you are in this school, the more learned you become. Neither you or any creature can know the grandeur of God and the divine impression he makes on humble hearts because he delights in them.” ( St. Paul of the Cross: Letter 929)

Lord,
I am blind;
Help me to see.

Spanish

4to domingo de Cuaresma, Año A
Juan 9, 1- 4

Este es un evangelio dramático, no solo por el milagro, sinó también debido a los animados intercambios verbales y diestro diálogo que se encuentran en él. Jesús y sus discípulos, el mismo hombre ciego, sus padres y vecinos, y un fracturado grupo de fariseos todos discuten vigorosamente en este cuento.

En contraste con otros, este ciego no buscó a Jesús. Mas bién, Jesús lo buscó a él. Es interesante que el milagro no solamente restauró la vista del hombre. Ciego desde nacimiento, él nunca había tenido el poder de ver. ¿Puede él representar a todos los que no pueden hacer nada por sí mismos? ¿Nada en lo absoluto, excepto esperar por el poder de Diós? Él nos puede representar a todos nosotros.

Frente al cuadro de este triste mendigo, los discípulos se preguntaban : ¿Será que él hizo algo para merecerse esto? ¿Algún pecado que él o sus padres habían cometido? No, respondío Jesús. ” él nació ciego para qué el poder de Diós sea manifestado en su cura.”

Era el mensaje de Jesús siempre: Diós escoge demostrar su poder por medio de los pobres. El poder de Diós- que sana, restaura y crea- procede hacía el hombre ciego y otros como él. Y mientras Jesús dispensaba este poder, también le decía a sus discípulos ” que sigan con el trabajo de Quién los mandó mientras todavía dura la luz del día.”

El poder de Diós, no el nuestro, es que se le da a los pobres. Como discípulos de Jesús, tenemos que trabajar para compartirlo con otros. Entonces, quizás, algunas de sus bendiciones caerán sobre nosotros. ¿Despúes de todo, no somos nosotros pobres también?

“En humildad nota tu insignifícancia, nunca pierdas vista de ella. Entonces, cuando su Divina Majestad hace que se desparezca en la Totalidad Infinita que es Él, descansa ahí perdido sin ver quien ya no eres. No es importante. Sigue sus inspiraciones divinas. Lo menos que entiendes, lo mas ignorante que eres en esta escuela, lo mas qué aprendes. Ni tú ni ninguna criatura puede comprender la grandeza de Diós y la divina impresión que él hace en los corazones hulmildes porque el se deleita en ellos.” (San Pablo de la Cruz: Carta 929)

Señor,
Estoy ciego;
Ayúdame a ver.

Lent
Jampili ya Nne Mwaka A
Hi ni Injili ya matukio, si kwa sababu ya miujiza tu, ila kwa sababu ya majadiliano motomoto na yenye uelewa yanayopatikana humo. Yesu na wanafunzi wake, kipofu mwenyewe, wazazi wake, majirani na kikundi cha mafarisayo kilichogawanyika, wote wanachangia kwenye hadithi.
Tofauti na wengine, kipofu hakumkaribia Yesu. Bali Yesu ndiye aliyemkaribia. Kwa namna ya pekee muujiza haukumfanya kipofu apate kuona tu. Kipofu tangu kuzaliwa, hakuwahi kuwa na uwezo wa kuona. Inawezekana kuwa anawakilisha wale ambao hawana uwezo wa kufanya kitu chochote wenyewe. Hawawezi kufanya kitu chochote ila kusubiri nguvu na uwezo wa mungu. Kipofu huyo anaweza kuwa sisi sote.
Wanafunzi wa Yesu wanashangaa kama alitenda kitu kilichomfanya astahili kuwa kipofu. Alitenda dhambi au wazazi wake ndio walitenda dhambi? La, Yesu aliwajibu. “Alizaliwa kipofu ili nguvu kuu ya mungu iweze kudhihirika katika kumponya.”
Ulikuwa ni ujumbe wa Yesu kila mara: Mapenzi ya Mungu ni kuonyesha uwezo wake kwa maskini. Nguvu za mungu za uponyaji, kurejesha na kuomba vinamuendea yule kipofu na wengine kama yeye. Vile Yesu alivotoa uwezo na nguvu ya uponyaji, aliwahimiza wanafunzi wake kuendeleza kazi ya mungu aliyemtuma yeye kuifanya.
Nguvu ya mungu si yetu, imetolewa kwa maskini. Sisi kama wanafunzi wa Yesu, inatubidi tufanye kazi na kuishirikisha nguvu hiyo kwa wenzetu. Nasi pia pengine huenda tukapata baadhi ya baraka zake. Hata hivyo kwa sisi pia ni maskini.
Mtakatifu Paulo wa Msalaba
Jinyenyekea na kuona kuwa huna kitu, na usipotese muelekeo. Halafu wakati utukufu wake mungu utatufanya nasi tupotelea kwake. Kaa pale na ujione kana kwamba haupo. Fuata maagizo au maelezo yake mungu. Vile unapungukiwa na kuelewa hapo ndivyo unavyojioana huna kitu katika shule yake. Hamna kiumbe chochote kinachoweza kufahamu alama anayoweka kwenye mioyo ya wanyenyekevu kwa sababu anapata furaha katika hao.(Barua 020, December 21, 1754)

The Tax-Collector’s Prayer

In Luke’s gospel Jesus often sides with those who are so let down by life that they hardly dream of anything better– tax collectors, widows, sinners like the prodigal son. He was criticized frequently by others for associating with people like that, so he must have done it often enough.
The tax collector in the parable we read today, who’s praying in the back of the temple, is an example. Luke recalls earlier in his gospel that Jesus sat down at table with Matthew and some of his tax collector friends in Capernaum. Was he telling their story in this parable?
Staying at a distance, eyes down, the tax collector says only a few words:“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
The Pharisee’s prayer is so different, so full of himself; he seems to ask only for applause and approval. The tax collector asks only for mercy.
His prayer is heard so shouldn’t we make it our own? Tax-collectors,  widows and sinners stand closest to where all humanity stands. We all need God’s mercy. We come to God empty-handed.
“O God come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me.”

“O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Friday, 2nd Week of Advent

Gospels are holy books read in church or in the quiet of our room. But they’re about real human beings, who can get angry and unfair.

When Matthew’s gospel was written, in Galilee or Syria about 90 AD, the pharisees were leading a revival in Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and they were competing fiercely with the followers of Jesus for the soul of Judaism. The fighting wasn’t always fair–on either side.

The pharisees and their allies called Jesus a drunkard who ate too many meals with the wrong kind of people, among other things. His friend John the Baptist was a crazy eccentric, they said.

We don’t like them saying that about Jesus and John the Baptist, of course, but the followers of Jesus said some pretty nasty things about the pharisees, if the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel is any indication.

Fairness isn’t easy to come by in human life and relationships. We caricature people so easily, especially when they are on the other side of an argument.  Our tongues can become uncontrollable and that goes for our judgments too. We like to win, often at any cost, even by running down someone else.

We don’t like the pharisees we hear about in the gospels, but be careful: look closely, they’re not unlike ourselves.

 

 


Woe to Us Too!

Woe to Us Too!

We’re reading from the 23rd  Chapter of Matthew today, always a tough section to talk about.

One benefit modern scriptural studies give us– and we should be thankful for it– is a better understanding of the past. For instance, as we read from the 23rd chapter of Matthew’s gospel today, it helps to understand the times they were written. Otherwise, we can get a distorted picture of the people whom Jesus loved, the Jews, whom he seems to condemn exclusively in our gospel today.

Matthew’s gospel was written in Syria or Galilee about 40 or 50 years after Jesus had died and rose again. By then, relations between his followers and the followers of the Pharisees had soured as Pharisaic Judaism tried to pull together Jewish life after the terrible destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD.

Relations between the two groups were not amicable, to say the least, and as we know, when tempers flare, words can become unfair.

We’re hearing some unfair words in Matthew’s gospel today. Matthew’s sharp polemic, says Rudolf Schnackenburg, a modern commentator on the gospel, “does not really do justice to the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees, not even for the time of alienation between Judaism and Christianity.“ In other words, Matthew’s exaggerating the faults and weaknesses of his opponents.

So, should we ignore these powerful “woes” Jesus speaks? Better, perhaps, to apply them to a wider audience than Matthew does. The 19th century British historian Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to  corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was speaking about the temptation that affects anybody in power to use it for his or her own aims.

Matthew’s woes apply just as well to Christians and their leaders. They can be hypocritical, proud and opinionated too. Instead of hearing Jesus’ words meant only for others, then, let’s hear them meant for his followers–and ourselves as well.

Woe to us too!