WEDNESDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
GOSPEL. ST. MATT, xv, 1-20.
(The Reproaches of the Pharisees; The Condemnation of Jesus.)
At that time there came to Jesus from Jerusalem scribes and Pharisees, saying: Why do Thy disciples transgress the traditions of the ancients? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answering, said to them: Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for your tradition? For God said: Honor thy father and mother; and He that shall curse father or mother, let him die the death. But you say: Whosoever shall say to father or mother, the gift whatsoever proceeded! from me, shall profit thee; and he shall honor his father or his mother; and you have made void the commandment of God for your tradition. Hypocrites, well hath Isaias prophesied of you, saying: This people honoreth Me with their lips: but their heart is far from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men. And having called together the multitudes unto Him, He said to them: Hear ye and understand. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came His disciples, and said to Him: Dost Thou know that the Pharisees, when they hear this word, were scandalized? But He answering, said: Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. And Peter answering, said to Him: Expound to us this parable. But He said: Are you also yet without understanding? Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands doth not defile a man.
How uncharitably and unjustly the Pharisees pass judgment on Jesus and His disciples! Because they eat their bread without first washing their hands, as was customary with the Jews, the Pharisees accuse them of a crime; but no thought is given by the Pharisees to any violation of the ten commandments. They looked only to the exterior, and they neglected the interior. Similar is the conduct of Christians of our own day who adorn the graves of their relatives with expensive flowers and costly ornaments, but neglect to pray for the departed souls which are perhaps tormented by the fires of purgatory.
Such is the worth, O Christian soul, of the judgment of men, the hypocrisy of the children of the world, who praise God with their lips, but not with their heart; they are blind and leaders of the blind. The fear of an earthly king outweighed in Pilate his fear of God. Contrary to his own conviction and his own sense of right and justice, Pilate condemns the innocent Savior. But immediately Pilate ordered the servant to bring a bowl of water with which he washed his hands before all the people, saying: "I am innocent of the blood of this just man: look you to it." And the whole people answering, said: "His blood be upon us, and upon our children." And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. "Then therefore he delivered Him to be crucified." Terrible blindness, which chooses to please men rather than God, and which, on account of foolish human respect, drives souls into hell.
LET US PRAY.
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that, instructed by wholesome fasting, and abstaining from dangerous vices, we may more easily obtain Thy favor.
No, Oh innocently condemned Savior, not the judgment of men, nor the fear of men shall direct us in our earthly career; but only the fear of Thy unalterable, eternal judgment, and the love of Thy holy and innocent Blood shall guide us, so that when it speaks, as St. Bernard says, with a voice like the sound of a trumpet on the last day, it may proclaim for us not damnation, but mercy and salvation. Amen.