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October 29, 1993     The Message
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October 29, 1993

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October 29, 1993 The Message --for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 -" Commentary -- Matthew denounces hypocrisy: Three levels of understanding Gospel Commentary far groups of Jesus' time, mostly lay bound to occur. Matthew gives us the key to his Oct. 31, 1993, Thirty-first Sun. people who bound themselves to bitterness when he writes: "You travel over land day, Or( tinary Time, Cycle A. Matthew 23:1.12 To a reader sensitive to the historical setting from which the gospels arose, Matthew's twenty- third chapter is one of the most painful chapters in all of Scripture• It is Matthew s denunciation of ::be: and Pharisees, part of the s us leadership of Jesus' time .and Matthew's time. All of it is put B v FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST into the mouth of Jesus, but some ofwhat is said is so far removed frora reality that it Cannot be attributed to Jesus but to a very angry Matthew. . . esus With a general introduction noting that J was ,Mathakmg to the crowds and his disciples, ph "w oraers people to do what the scribes and nsees teach but not to do as they d:iIn :h:( Words, in his view the were not tl the, .... . Y prac g . --ere preaching He blames th m for lacm heavy burdens • , e p g • on people s shoulders, yet not help- grnt° carry., those burdens. He accuses them of '"pous display in religious practices, of vain, exag- gerated and cons icuous reco,i,:_ _ P dress, of expecting pubhc - ,, mn, or taking the place of honor in assem- blies and banquets of ass honor H -, uming titles of rank and L . ' e ends with a warnin- that the roud will ue humbled. , P Matthew basically used the denunciation of the of the Scriptures) he found in of Mark. He greatly expanded the brief he found in Mark by including all The Pharisees were one of the religious very strict observance of the Law of Moses. There is no doubt that Jesus frequently debated with vari- ous scribes who were Pharisees about the observance of religious laws and customs. Jesus had a way of cutting through centuries of ac- cumulation of interpretation and getting to the heart of the matter. These debates may have been quite heated at times• It is also quite pos- sible that some of the Pharisees did act hypocritically or even despised those who did not live up to the standards of Pharisaism. What we may not forget is that most of them would have been sincere, reli- gious people, and that some of them were friends of Jesus. Why do the Pharisees and scribes receive such bad press in Matthew? Why is Matthew's picture of them so colored with bitter antagonism? After the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman army in 70 A.D. and the burning of the temple, other religious par- ties among the Jews fade into obscurity. Not so the Pharisees. They took their Torah, their Scriptures, and settled elsewhere to carry the torch of Ju- daism when it was left without a country, a tem- ple, a priesthood• Religious Jews looked to the Pharisees to guide them in observance of Judaism. There is evidence that Jewish missionaries were quite active in the time of Matthew, the eighties of the first Christian century. But Christ- ian missionaries were just as active• Conflict be- tween Christians and Jews over converts was and sea to make one convert, and when he be- comes a convert, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!" How's that for ecu- menism! Matthew cannot be used as the model for Judaeo-Christian relationships in our time. What were undoubtedly debates between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees of his time have evolved into bitter denunciation of scribes and Pharisees of Matthew's time. All of Scripture needs to be studied in the context of the time in which it was written. A fact to remember is that our gospels express a certain evolution in Jesus' teaching as it was applied to new situations• The inspired authors were not zombies who wrote dic- tation from the Holy Spirit. They were free, con- scious, struggling individuals, children of their own time, filled with religious zeal but also with the prejudices of their time. They were, nevertheless, instruments of God's revelation. Thus we have to try to find out just what God might be revealing even through Matthew's prejudicial denunciation of those he considered religious rivals and enemies. There is still a lesson in therefor us. We may still find dis- crepancies between preaching and practice among religious people, in other words, hypocrisy. We may still find unnecessary ostentation and dis- play. We may still need a warning against a love of titles, honors, privilege• And we still need to be re- minded that true greatness among the followers of Jesus is attained only through serving rather than dominating. Other readings: Malachy 1:14.2:2, 8-10; I Thess 2:7.9, 13. ,,, ( i J  D'O'W'N'T-O.W,N 30 ST, • V NCENNES, IN 47591 i  HAUBSTADT ELECTRIC Licensed. Bonded, Insured Industrial, Commercial and Residential P.O. Box 405 TONY NAZARIO Haubsted, (N 47639 812-768-5207 1-800-766-2787 i i Ed. L. Lee Mortuary 101 North Meridian Street Washington, IN 254-3612 MILLER & MILLER . "Funeral Pro-Planning Since 1940" - . - . - - 424-9274 Bear Prayer Service , Debbie Meuth's and Marianne Webster s kindergarten classes at Holy Re- Evansville, participated in a "Teddy Bear Prayer Service" under the di- am Wargel. The purpose of the prayer service was to help the chil- God's unconditional love. 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