Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

 

The Pharisees and Scribes were a certain class of Jews who in outward habits were most scrupulously correct. They fasted, prayed publicly in the Temple, and gave ostentatious alms. Our Lord knew them: He could see into their hearts, and knew that they were not sincere. Therefore He said: “Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Their virtues were only a show, and did not reach the soul; so wicked were they that their hearts were the seat of most abominable vices. Our Lord called them
whitened sepulchres; all was well on the outside, but the inside was full of the vilest corruption.

Have we not Pharisees among us, my dear young friends? There are people who put on the appearance of sanctity: they might be thought angels of perfection, but they are whitened
sepulchres, full of loathsome corruption and horrible vices. They wish to commit sin, and they indulge in it; they keep their vices secret; they put on the appearance of purity to
the eyes of others; they keep up a certain respectability. In their eyes, to be caught and to be known as having committed certain vices is more disgraceful than to sin. We are frequently deceived by appearances; but God, who sees into the heart, cannot be deceived. What good would result from it, if every one should consider you good, while in reality you are bad; you certainly do not think you will gain any merit by an outward show of virtue. There are people who actually wish to be wicked; they are not ashamed of it, but boast of the fact and wish to be praised for it. Some will openly break the law of the fasts of the Church and not hide it; they despise that law as unreasonable. When in public eating-houses with their companions, they will make known their aversion to the law by eating meat on forbidden days. The Pharisees loved to make a display of their piety in the church: a thing which, after all, cannot be called bad, for the good Christian does this and should do it. But are there not young men who go to church to laugh and to talk? The Pharisees looked for the high and honored places as a kind of tribute to their exalted virtues. Are there not young men who exult in evil, and want to be the ringleaders in crime?

Older brothers are frequently the teachers of vice to their younger brethren. How many, therefore, rise in the pulpit of sin to teach iniquity and put themselves forward, so that they may lead others into sin? What will Our Lord say of such people, when He was so severe on the Pharisees? Are they not worse? The Pharisees gave good example in some things.

After Our Lord had made the declaration, “Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” He continues: ”You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you: that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca: shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool: shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee: Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.” In these words Our Lord recommends charity toward our neighbor. I remember that in one of my former sermons I spoke about this very point. I shall not now repeat it, only to say again: keep no anger in your heart against any one for any offence whatever; for God will take no excuse for enmity, and will make you give a very rigorous account on the judgment day. Never say any injurious words against your neighbor or your enemy; never make fun of him, or play wicked jokes on him; never laugh at old people on account of their infirmities or poverty. Remember the punishment that came on the children who mocked the prophet Eliseus. The prophet was going up a little hill when a crowd of young urchins amused themselves by saying, “Go up, thou bald-head.” The prophet could not contain his holy anger against children so badly brought up, so ill behaved. He turned to them and said, “Cursed be ye in the name of God.” As soon as he had spoken two big bears came forth from the woods and tore the boys in pieces. Was not this a most terrible punishment? And here let me say, too, never make fun of priests or Religious. Do not say mean things to them as Protestant bigots do. Of all youthful excesses this is one of the most horrible. The Lord once said: “He that despiseth you, despiseth Me: and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me.” You need not insult a begging friar, but give him something, be it ever so little: this charity will bring a great blessing on you. Deride him and God’s anger will descend on you. Make fun of no one; do not follow the drunkard nor some poor miserable sot of a woman; feel for all mankind, but for the unfortunate especially. Make it the principle of your life and conduct to protect and help them; be not so cruel as to inflict wilful injuries on others, for you cannot be a friend of God and at the same time at enmity with your neighbor. Since Our Lord put such importance on the fact of our forgiveness and reconciliation with our friend, it must be that it is a serious matter. Live in peace, in charity, and in love, with your friends. charity of our neighbor, what a great virtue thou art, when thou art likened to the love of God! Love one another, love your enemies, those that hate you, and those that talk against you. St. John the Apostle thought of nothing in his old age but the love of his neighbor; he always preached the same sermon, “Children, love one another.” On every occasion he made the same declaration; so that his disciples said, “Do give us some other sentiment.” “No,” said St. John, “it is the Lord’s doctrine. His special teaching. Love one another, and if you do this you will fulfil the whole law.”

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