16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.17 Pharisees
The Pharisees were among the leaders in the Jewish religion at the time of Our Lord.
They generally rejected Our Lord, and His claims to be Messiah and God.
There are countless times where they tried to obstruct Our Lord in His work, as in today’s Gospel, where He heals a man on the sabbath.
They are more concerned about what day of the week it is, than about the wonder of a healing miracle right before their eyes!
The word ‘Pharisee’ has come down to our time for one who misses the point of Our Lord’s teaching; missing the main point while making too much of details.
People like us, who go to Mass, and who hold certain moral opinions are accused of being Pharisees because we think we are better than others; or that we are hypocrites.
We do admit to human fault, and if we do not practise what we preach, we resolve to do so - not, however, changing the message, because that comes from God.
Those who attack the Church have a little of the ‘Pharisee’ in them insofar as they can miss the obvious message from God, trying to manipulate it to suit themselves. The Pharisees were not afraid of a little dishonesty, for example, steering the whole process of Our Lord’s crucifixion.
There are many today who want to crucify Him again – and His followers.
Why is He so much hated? For the same reason as then – that He represents the truth, and truth requires a change of heart; requires humility and chastity; trust in God; surrender of one’s will to God - and other things along these lines.
And we are tempted to the opposite of all these things – to be our own god, to set our own objectives. In short to build our own kingdom, instead of letting God be King.
The real problem is in the will (heart). People will say they do not believe in God, making it an intellectual exercise. But really it is more they do not want to believe in Him.
They do not want to be under His authority, so they pretend He is not there.
Religion, particularly the Catholic religion, is seen as too demanding. People like the idea of Heaven but not the idea of self-denial. They want it all now.
It just needs humility (also in today’s gospel), to make peace with God, to listen without arguing back.
The positive side of the argument. Just look around and see the bounty of God and respond with gratitude and obedience.
It’s a beautiful world. Or it would be if more people came into proper relationship with God.
You can have anything in the garden except the forbidden fruit. Much the same applies to us as Adam and Eve, except there are more than one forbidden tree. But the idea is the same, that if we do not sin we will have everything we want.
Agreement and obedience are the best response.
If the positive argument does not work there is a negative one too. Rejecting God means rejecting the source of all happiness, and that leads to extreme unhappiness, summarised in the word Hell. Hell as a final destination, and as a description of this life as well.
It is not so hard as we have made it. The Pharisees teach us what not to do. Let us take a different course. Let Our Lord heal us on any day of the week, meaning, let Him pour out His blessings on us, without telling Him what He should be doing instead!
We will not be Pharisees. We get the main point, which is union with God, and we hold on to it with great tenacity.
He will save us, if we let Him.