The Law of Moses declares that everyone who in the open country touches a dead person, or who touches a human bone or grave, is rendered unclean, and needs to be ritually purified (Nm 19:16). It was then Jewish practice to whitewash tombs so that pilgrims to the Jerusalem Temple would avoid them so as not to be rendered unclean inadvertently and be barred from temple worship.
Jesus points to the scribes and Pharisees’ concern for the external rather than the internal. Before this, he points out that they take care of cleaning the outside of the cup and dish, but neglect the dirt inside the cup that represents plunder and indulgence that pollute the human person. Here, Jesus compares the scribes and the Pharisees to tombs that glint in sunshine, beautiful to behold, but inside are full of bones and dead bodies. In their actual actions, they may appear extremely religious, but their hearts are made putrid by pride, greed, and even violence.
Hypocrisy rears its ugly head when there is discrepancy and contradiction between the inner and the outer person, between hearts and lips, between words and deeds. Only when the person acts consistently can he truly be authentic.
GOSPEL • MATTHEW 23:27-32
Jesus said, “ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.