Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pharisees’


Luke 11:37-54Unmarked Graves

Friday, December 4, 2019

The Pharisees Question Jesus

Jesus warns his listeners, Woe to you!  – and he also warns us – that we might fulfill the letter of the law and completely miss its spirit.  Jesus describes for the Pharisees and others – and he describes for us – what it means to be his true disciples.  Jesus tells the dinner guests – and he tells us – how to avoid becoming unmarked graves that people walk over without even realizing.

Jesus also speaks to those who know the law inside and out; he challenges the lawyers and scribes and points out how they block entrance to the kingdom by their obtuseness and their stubborn inflexibility.  He also warns all that we are judged by what we do and what we do not do.

Commentary tells us that here Jesus delineates six woes and we might take the opportunity to examine ourselves today.

Do we worry about our outward appearance and cleanliness and neglect our true selves, our souls?

Do we speak with piety and yet rebuke the marginalized and broken?

Do we make a show of our tithing and do nothing for the poor?

Do we seek honor and fame while we isolate and segregate those we see as unworthy?

Do we overly obfuscate and complicate the simple law of love that Jesus gives us and steer others away from the true Way?

Do we attempt to supersede the Holy Spirit by encouraging others to worship us rather than God?

With Jesus’ words we see the easy pitfalls that line the pathway of our journey.  We will want to look for the small and subtle ways in which we complicate the simple instruction to love one another.  We will want to gather around ourselves like pilgrims who openly share the difficulties of the road; and we will want to move away from those who lie in wait to catch others in something they might say.

The Scribes and Pharisees Hear Jesus

Today’s picture is one we will want to keep with us for a while before we leave the Christmas season because it gives us insight into how to best deal with the kind of envy and greed that both lures and surprises us.  In the Christ Child, we have just been given the dual gifts of hope and light; we have received these as tools we might use to conquer the narrowness we see today in the scribes, the Pharisees and even ourselves.  These are the instruments we will use to avoid embroiled arguments, byzantine squabbles and superficial bickering.  The presence of the Christ in each moment of our lives is all that saves each of us from becoming the unmarked grave of a life lived . . . and lost.

And so let us pray as St. Paul prayed with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:12): Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world . . . with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 4, 2012.

Images from: http://allsaintswritersblock.wordpress.com/about/ and http://possessthevision.wordpress.com/seeking-jesus/passing-from-the-way-and-into-the-truth/jesus-is-victorious-over-an-evil-establishment/

Read Full Post »


John 11The Death of Lazarus

Wednesday, August 24, 2016Lazarus

A Favorite from August 28, 2009.

This is a bittersweet story if we believe in the resurrection.  Each time I read it, I linger over verse 35: Jesus wept.  As a child I believed that the Christ wept because his good friend had died.  As I grew older I believed he mourned the fact that he knew he was calling this friend back from a beatific place.  Now when I read this verse it seems to me that Christ cries out of his humanity; he cries at the tragedy of our human fragility.  As I continue to grow I am guessing that I will have other perspectives, other reasons for Jesus’ tears.  This is what is so wonderful about the message of the Messiah: each time we read it, we come away with something new, something surprising, something healing.  This is why, I believe, God came to walk among us . . . so that we might number our sorrows with his.  When we cry out to God, he can honestly tell us that he experiences our pain.

There is another point which always intrigues me about this story.  Hard on its heels arrives the story of the plot to kill Jesus.  I am always struck with the vigor of the jealousy and venom of his enemies.  Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council and said, “What are we to do?  This man is performing miracles, many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the holy place and our nation”.  This narrative continues to verses 53 and 54: So from that day on they planned to put him to death.  Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews.  And this chapter ends with . . . Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. 

When I put myself into this story, I wonder where I would fall.  Am I among the Pharisees, the priests, the followers who report Jesus?  Am I one who succumbs to jealousy and revenge?  Am I one who believes and follows?  Do I understand that the “death” of Lazarus is really the initiation rite of his new life?  Am I willing to enter into the hope God offers us when he frees us in the person of Jesus?  Do I comprehend the joy I might experience when I unite with the Holy Spirit to carry the message of freedom to others?  Am I willing to accept surprise in my life?  Am I willing to hand myself over to a belief in something I cannot see?  Am I ready to accept a new way of living?

There is much newness to think about as we read this old story.  What appears to be death might actually be life.  What seems to the end of a story, may actually be the beginning.  What is apparently a handing over of self in obedience can be a surprising release into a full liberty of expression.  We will only know when we choose to follow.

Read Full Post »


Luke 7:36-50: A Prayer for Throwing Stones

Sunday, July 31, 2016Defenseless under the night

When we read this familiar story with new eyes, we see Jesus once again teach the Pharisees about how to handle the anger they feel when they want to throw stones. His capacity to forgive amazed those who saw him at work and made the Pharisees uneasy.

The others sitting at the table began to say to themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

Jesus continues in his compassionate Way, calling others to follow.

But Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

And so today we pray for ourselves and others in the moment when we want to throw stones in anger or fear.

Merciful and forgiving God, we need the strength of your faith to sustain us through our anxiety and alarm. Abide with us in the journey of Jesus’ Way.

Compassionate and guiding God, we need the joy of your hope to nourish us through our pain and suffering. Abide with us in the pilgrimage of our lives.

Healing and transforming God, we need the consolation of your love to carry us beyond all distrust and doubt. Abide with us in the mystery of your Spirit. 

We ask this in your name. Amen.

Eleanor Roosevelt in her youth

Eleanor Roosevelt in her youth

As we consider the fear that has a way of settling into our lives with or without our noticing, we might find this interview with historian and political scientist Matthew Dallek interesting. He is interviewed by guest host Derek McGinty on the July 26 edition of the Diane Rehm show. Dallek’s book Defenseless under the Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security explores the evolution of the response to fear that we see in the U.S. public today. Listening to this interview may give us a new perspective on our desire to throw stones. Visit: https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-07-26/matthew-dallek-defenseless-under-the-night

To learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt, visit: http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=33 or http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/eleanor-biography/

Read Full Post »


John 9Against the Light

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Siloam Pool

Siloam Pool

Adapted from a May 14, 2010 favorite.

In the opening verses of this Chapter, Jesus begins to explain that misfortune or disability is not a sign of our sin; it is only misfortune or disability.  Jesus cures a man of blindness as if to make a point.  A miracle occurs yet in verses 8 through 12 we see how the people doubt that the cure has taken place: No, he just looks like him. In verse 13 the Pharisees become involved.  The healing happened on a Sabbath; work has occurred.  This is a transgression for which the temple leaders must have an accounting. This man is not from God.  The healed man is called a second time and asked what has happened, to which he replies  in verse 24.  I told you already and you did not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  The Pharisees continue to question and he replies: This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes . . . If this man were not from God he would not be able to do anything. This is a challenge to them.  They cannot comprehend – or accept – the miracle before them and so . . . Then they threw him out.

In the final verses of this chapter Jesus speaks to the healed man to assure him that they have not broken God’s true law – the Law of Love.  Explaining that he is the light that has come into this world of darkness, Jesus gives his listeners something to think about: I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.  This tweaks the Pharisees – who have refused to see and accept this cure as coming from God.  Jesus says to them: If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, “We see”, so your sin remains.  Jesus points out to these men that they have seen the truth and reject it . . . so that they might believe themselves to be in control.  They irony is this:  They were never in control as they have imagined themselves to be.

Christ Healing the Blind Man at Bethsaida: Gioacchino Assereto

Christ Healing the Blind Man at Bethsaida: Gioacchino Assereto

In this story we are again in the world of inversion where up is down and down is up, poor is good, disability is a plus.  Jesus is the light and the Pharisees set themselves against this healing force.  We have the opportunity to examine our reaction to miracles.  Do we accept the gift of life which each of us is offered?  Or do we put aside our petty haranguing with one another in order to unite in Christ?  Are we stubborn Pharisees or are we blind people cured?

Do we flail against the light and insist that what we see is not really happening?  Can we accept in confidence the gift of healing and give back to God our total trust?

If this man were not from God he would not be able to do anything . . . so when the light enters our lives as it so often does let us not thrash against the goodness and the warmth. 

Read Full Post »


Monday, June 17, 2013

Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

Luke 5:33-6:11

Questions

I am always fascinated by the questions posed to Jesus . . . and the manner in which he answers these questions.  The Pharisees and scribes whom he condemns as vipers are anxious to depose this man.  They are jealous of his authenticity and his authority.  They want him gone.

Last week we examined how to react and pray for the plotters and schemers who want to undermine us and even eradicate us.  Today we watch Jesus as he combats his foes with the simplest of techniques . . . with questions.

Jesus so often answers his inquisitors’ demands with questions of his own.  He also uses the parables with which we are familiar, stories with simple images like putting new wine into old skins.  His words are plain and simple enough for the people of his day to understand . . . and they are also eternal so that we might understand his meaning two thousand years later.  Jesus’ words are also universal.  They create pictures which any human being will comprehend.  He invites.  He calls.  He brings the Old Testament scriptures to life as he describes the desperation of David’s plight when he and his men eat the bread of offering in 1 Samuel 21.  Jesus makes a connection between himself and David by using a simple rabbinic method of mentioning a well-known scripture story to pertain to a present situation.  Jesus was, in fact, a wonderful teacher.

The questioners described by Luke in today’s reading do not understand that God has come to live among us in human form.  They do not see that Jesus fulfills their hopes and prophecies.  Jesus is the Sabbath . . . and they do not revere him . . . they trump up charges against him . . . they became enraged and together discussed what they might do to Jesus.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT reflection was from St. John of the Cross and it concerned why we undergo trial.  He writes: The reason trials are necessary . . . is that highest union cannot be wrought in a soul that is not fortified by tribulations, darknesses, and distress, just as a superior quality liqueur is poured only into a sturdy flask which is prepared and purified . . .  A man should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends him, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state.  For God repays the interior and exterior trials very well with divine goods for the soul and body, so that there is not a trial which does not have a corresponding and considerable reward.

In today’s story we can feel the resentment building among Jesus’ enemies and, of course, we know the end of the story.  We know that they win . . . but they lose.  We know that they are in power . . . but have no power.  We know that they are full of themselves . . . and empty of God.  We see their opposite in Jesus who stands quietly to answer their questions . . . who calls them to unity, to hope and to love . . . who waits patiently, who replies calmly, who endures endlessly.

In today’s story, who are we?  The Pharisees . . . or the expression of God among us?  And how have we decided to question our own inquisitors?

Adapted from a reflection written on February 11, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.21 (2008). Print.  

Read Full Post »


Friday, December 23, 2011 – Matthew 12 – Confronting Evil

The Pharisees

The Pharisees in today’s reading ask for a sign that Jesus’ healings are from God; Jesus replies that they have the sign of Jonah.  We spent time with the Jonah story on December 20 and 21 and perhaps we better understand that the three days spent in the belly of the whale are an opportunity for conversion, the chance to thank God for the goodness we have received.  Today we have the possibility of understanding the deeper meaning in Jesus’ words and actions, of more fully understanding that we have nothing to fear, of better understanding that our persecutors cannot touch what really matters – our souls.  And we more fully see that God himself has overcome the evil of the world.

The Pharisees try to trip Jesus up by challenging him on the details of the cumbersome Mosaic Law.  When they realize that Jesus is too clever – and too grounded in God – to be caught in a trap of their design, they challenge his very authority.  This is the beginning of their undoing.

How does Jesus defend himself and what lesson can we take from his actions?  Jesus does not waste words of explication but instead asks questions.  What did David do?  What do the Pharisees themselves do?  We might follow this tactic and practice asking questions rather falling into the trap of arguing when we confront evil.

How does Jesus reveal the fallacies in false charges?  Rather than point out the hardness in the Pharisees’ hearts, Jesus describes what happens when people work against one another in a greedy struggle for control.  Again he asks questions.  By whom do your own people drive out demons?  How will a kingdom stand when it is divided against itself?  We might follow this strategy and develop our own skills of looking for the truth rather than focusing on proving others wrong. 

Jesus calls to his listeners using an image of trees bearing good fruit.  Jesus teaches with his healing acts and leads by turning to God and allowing the Spirit to work through him.  The crowds of people know where the evil lies . . . and it is not in the man who heals them even on the holiest day of the week; instead it lies in corrupt leadership, it lies in the collaborators who encourage the corruption to flourish, and it lies in the hearts on anyone who would rather sacrifice the kingdom in order to build a personal power base.  We have so much to learn from Jesus.

Tissot: The Pharisees Confronting Jesus

Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you . . . Are we members of this crowd?

An evil and ungrateful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except for the sign of the prophet Jonah . . . Do we understand Jesus’ words that resurrection follows days of uncertainty and pain in the belly of the whale?

When we see evil we know that we must confront it but we must do so wisely – as Jesus does – lest we empty our house of several small demons only to let in the monster Beelzebub to take up permanent residence in our hearts.   Let us take a lesson from the master and decide that rather than argue with the devil, we will ask questions instead.  Rather than point fallacies and errors to those around us, we will empty ourselves of our well-honed arguments and allow the Spirit to speak instead.  And rather than throw ourselves against barricaded corruption and power in high places, we will turn to the God who knows and sees all, and give thanks to the God of all creation.  In this way we bear fruit for the kingdom . . . and we ask God to confront evil.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, the day when all creation gathers in anticipation of the One who fulfills God’s promise to us.  So let us prepare to receive this most wonderful, most impossible, most loving gift.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: