October 12, 2021

The Lord said to him, “Oh, you Pharisees!”

There are many things that Jesus accused the Pharisees of. Most deal with religious externalism. Ritual ablutions were not required in the Old Testament. But the Pharisees followed an oral tradition that had sprung up and was very concerned about their religious practice’s externals. It should be kept in mind that the seeming bitterness of many of the criticisms we find in the New Testament may well be due to the conflict between the Pharisees and the early church, especially after the destruction of the Temple. Jesus himself had more in common with them than we realize.

The main criticisms of the Pharisees center on three issues: giving meticulous care to religious externals while neglecting God’s justice and love, coveting attention and pride of place and leading people astray by their teaching. Before we start feeling superior to them, we should realize that the same is true today as well. Look at the number of legalistic Catholics who criticize Pope Francis for his emphasis on mercy. Before we blame the Pharisees, we should first look to ourselves. Jesus wants his followers to have a merciful and loving heart more than anything.

The Mass we celebrate is a stark reminder of Jesus telling us that we should love one another as he himself loved us. He then gave his life for each of us. Jesus did not enjoin us to follow a series of external practices but to develop a compassionate heart. His concern for our ability to interiorize the values of our religious practice more than its externals often led to conflict.

Let Us Pray:

O Jesus, help me imitate you in the care and concern you always showed all those you met. May I develop a generous and merciful heart.


Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015. His most recent book is A Eucharistic Spirituality: Inspired by Saint Peter Julian Eymard – Apostle of the Eucharist, which he co-authored with Jim Brown.