Tuesday of the Second Week in Lent
(Isaiah 1:10.16-20; Matthew 23:1-12)
The gospel today should hit church-goers between the eyes. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees, the religious zealots who give religion a bad name. They are pompous about practicing religion and hardly charitable toward other people. The passage implicitly asks us if we may not be women and men of the Pharisees. Do we like to be seen in church and to gossip about people after Mass? Do we complain intolerantly about other races and religions and turn a blind eye to the serious shortcomings of our own practice of faith? If so, we would be among the biggest of sinners in Jesus’ eyes.
An antidote to Pharisaism is frequent confession. Of course, people who think of themselves as good usually have little felt need of confession. They are like inmates of a prison whom the governor of a large state once visited. When he arrived at the prison, he was besieged with requests for a pardon. Everyone said that there were not guilty of the crime for which they were imprisoned. The governor held an assembly in which he asked if any inmate was justly sent to prison. Only one inmate raised his hand. Then the governor said he was going to pardon that man so that he wouldn’t corrupt all the others.
Most of us sin regularly at least by thoughtlessness and ingratitude. These sins may not be scarlet red but just a sickening pink that should also distress us.