The Difference Between Weak Sinners and Wicked Pharisees

First Reading: Ez. 43:1-7ab

Psalm: Ps. 85:9ab And 10, 11-12, 13-14

Gospel: Mt. 23:1-12

Jesus treated ordinary sinners and the Pharisees quite differently. His arms were always wide open to receive sinners whose sins were sins of weakness. The experience of the woman caught committing adultery provides a very beautiful example of Jesus’ compassion for weak sinners. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to condemn the adulteress, but instead he shamed the Pharisees and offered forgiveness and hope to the woman.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus roundly condemns the Pharisees because they want everything for themselves – honor and respect, impressive clothing, fine titles. But they place terribly heavy burdens on the shoulders of the ordinary people and not even lift a finger to help them bear the weight.

It’s not our sins of weakness that will draw Jesus’ condemnation down on us. Excessive consumption of alcohol, involvement with drugs, sins of impurity – these are sins of weakness, which good men and women commit although they strive with great effort to live good Christian lives. They sin in spite of their goodness because they are weak.

In our world today, many people are hungry. For some of us, we try to do our best to help them, donating to charities or perhaps even performing volunteer work to do what we can to ease their burdens. Even if we were not guilty of putting burdens on others, Christ, in his parable on the last judgment, does not ask those to be judged whether they have imposed burdens on “the least of his brothers.” Rather, he asks whether they have done anything to make burdens they imposed lighter.

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