Beyond External Rules

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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr. Louie Punzalan, SVD — Christ the King Mission Seminary

Tuesday 28th Week in Ordinary Time

On several occasions, Jesus found a way to criticize and condemn the hypocrisy and insincerity of the Pharisees. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus denounced them for their excessive concern over external rules and traditions while neglecting the internal values of the human spirit.

Two important points stand out in today’s gospel reading. First, the Pharisees lived to indulge in externals. As long as they went through the correct motions at the right moment, they considered themselves pious in the eyes of God.

But nobody should call himself an authentic Christian if he only meticulously observes the conventions of religion but forgets the essentials and realities of genuine Christian daily living. A certain Jesuit psychologist calls it “split-level Christianity” because there is a dichotomy or contradiction between faith and practice, or between what I profess and how I live my Christian life. This person lives a double life. 

Second, the Pharisees loved to focus on details. They were so meticulous and unreasonably strict about practices like washing hands and giving tithes with mathematical accuracy. They could even be stricter than God himself. But these people get lost in totally unimportant details while neglecting the more essential realities of the Christian life. Their brand of religion is the worship not of God but of details and the neglect of things that truly matter.

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