Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hypocrites and Lazy Virgins

On Holy Tuesday we hear two great Gospel lessons. The first warns us against hypocrisy while the other warns us against not being prepared for Christ’s return. Both are great lessons for us to embrace during Holy Week.

Here is an excerpt from the reading for Matins (actually celebrated last night in anticipation), but you can read the entire selection at Matthew 22:15-46; 23:1-39.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build  the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to Gehenna? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Zacharias the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.

When we refuse to even attempt the Christian life, we are bound to called out as hypocrites by Our Lord. The Christian life isn’t about always getting it right, but working at it. In the Gospel Christ directs our attention toward the danger of outwardly reflecting something different from what is in our hearts.

The other benefit from today’s readings is from the Vesper Liturgy (celebrated this morning in some Churches) in which we hear the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-46; 26:1-2.

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man shall come.

These first days of Holy Week the Church has been preparing us to greet the Lord. Yesterday we heard Jesus wither a fruitless fig tree, and today we are warned against hypocrisy and laziness. Thankfully God has given us another chance to repent. We have another opportunity to live prepared to greet our Lord and to live an authentic Christian life, in AND out. If we just spend the next few days going about our business, we will miss the chance to be welcomed into the Kingdom by God. We are also fortunate that the Church offers us the opportunity for Holy Confession so that we can have a fresh start.

By the grace of God, through the authority He has given His Church with Holy Confession, we will have another chance. Don’t waste it with hypocrisy or laziness.

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