“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’
How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
When we ask young people why they stay away from the church, they often cite “hypocrisy” as the number one reason they do so. Jesus tries to awaken the Pharisees and scribes to this sentiment. The money offered to the temple and the adornments that exist within it, seem more important than the temple itself. I suspect that Jesus is also referring to the “temple” that is our bodies as well.
I wonder after a lifetime of ministry if Jesus will look at me and cite my own hypocrisy. Will he point out how many people I led astray? It would be so humbling to see how much I got wrong and disheartening to know that I spread the wrong message to others and put their soul in the balance!
The challenge Jesus gives to all of us is to “take care of the temple”, that is, ourselves. Before we can serve others, we need to pray deeply to discern where God is leading us, so that our example is not one based on an irrational piety, or worse, a false God! Rather we base our lives on dedication to God alone.
—Mike Hayes is the Director of Campus Ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.
Lord God, let our focus be on you, so that we might bring your people to you to do with what you will. Amen.