A doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer went out golfing. They were trying to decide whose profession came first. The doctor said, "My profession came first because when God removed Adam's rib he performed surgery." The engineer then said, "No, no, no. When the earth was dark and void God created light. That was engineering." The lawyer said, "You're both wrong." The doctor and engineer replied, "Oh yeah? What makes you think yours came first?" The lawyer replied, "Where do you think the darkness came from?"

They were called the Pharisees, the separated ones. Not all of them were lawyers, but most of them were extremely zealous in observing the Law handed by Moses.

Every Jew is supposed to observe the Law and they did not see Jesus observing some aspects of their religious traditions. And so, they asked Jesus. According to what they see through their hearts and their eyes, Jesus was wrong. To the Pharisees, Jesus was clean, pure and holy only if he followed the external rituals: washing his hands before he eats, purifying cups and jugs, kettles and beds.

Jesus called their attention to look inside themselves. It is not the externals that define us and our faithfulness to God. Rather, it is the internal disposition of our hearts, from which our behavior flows, that define who we are. He said that what makes us dirty comes from within. What pollutes our minds and spirits comes from within. What sets us away from God comes from within.

According to our Lord, these are some of the evils that corrupt us: unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance. Some of them we may have done. Most of them we dare not do. All of them we should not do.

Our good Lord challenges us to walk in the dry desert of our spiritual poverty and confront the dark side of our hypocrisy. Abraham Lincoln defines a hypocrite as the man who murdered both his parents, then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.

Perhaps, all of us have our dark past. Perhaps, all of us have our secret and favorite sins. Perhaps, all of us have our own skeletons in our closets. But as William Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, “Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.”

There is a danger in our lives that we have to admit. That danger is found in the recesses of our minds. Whenever we believe that we are holier than others because we go to Mass regularly and they do not, whenever we think that we are godlier than others because we follow the commandments of God and they do not, whenever we feel that we are better than others because we had done our part and they did not, then we are like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned.

Hypocrisy is the daughter of pride. It centers on what people think about us, rather than what God knows inside us. Our need for attention is condoned by our craving to impress and make people think that we are something we know we are not.

Where do our hearts lie and why do we do what we do? The things that we love tell us what we are. The persons we love tell us who we are. The reasons we love tell us why we are. What are we but created beings limited by death. Who are we but inspired beings redeemed by life. Why are we but spiritual beings called to eternal life.

When we are tempted to judge people according to our own standards, it is good to be reminded of what St. Augustine once wrote, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

How presumptuous for the Pharisees to remind Jesus about the law. Our good Lord did not just give us a law, but he gave us his two greatest commandments: Love God above all else and love your neighbor as you love yourself. The law of love is higher than the love for the law. That should keep us busy for the rest of our lives. And as far as God loved us from the very beginning, His was the profession that came first.

30 August 2009

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