Hypocrites! Not Welcome Here! | Word from the Shepherd No. 122 | 3rd Sunday of Lent Year B

3rd Sunday of Lent Year B
Exo.20:1-17; 1Cor.1:22-25; Jn.2:13-25

A man died and went up to heaven, and St Peter showed him around. There were many mansions and dwellings. St Peter told him: “ There, live the Jews. Here are the Muslims. And over there are the Buddhists.” Then they came to a large compound. All around it, were high walls. They heard singing and laughter. The new arrival asked: “Who are they?” St Peter said in a low voice: “Hush! They are the Catholics. They think they are the only ones here”.

There’s a constant challenge to unlearn and renew one’s perception of God and salvation. We need to see the “revealed God, not the God of our conjecture “; the original intent of God, not our presumed speculations. The scripture points out a number of unchangeable truths: the universality of salvation, the inclusive ways of God, the One Temple or the One Church, the God of all and the One God for all, the acceptable worship in spirit and truth.

But there is a divisive spirit, that thrives on lies, that divides communities and people, that sees all life and world in black and white terms, that discriminates, and that modifies original plans of God to suit their world view. That was what Jesus saw-a “temple and religion tailored to suit the times”. What he saw, angered him. The outward appearances in worship had become more important than the worship that changed hearts. He saw hypocrisy.

  1. They had removed morality, the living of the faith, and replaced it with rites and rituals.
  2. They had removed the relational aspect, and replaced it with performance index.
  3. They had removed the universal God, and replaced him with nationalistic god.
  4. They had removed the 5th court of the Temple, the court of the gentiles, and replaced it as the marketplace.
    (All in all, there are a total of 5 courts, with right at the heart of the Temple is the Holy of Holies, spreading outwards is the court of the priests, court for Israel, court for the women and the outer most court is called the court of the gentiles.)
    The business activities to facilitate religious and liturgical rites and rituals, were always there from ancient times and were located outside the Temple.

Jesus hated hypocrisy. He saw through the appearances of the Temple officials and leaders. They were strict on adherence to proper rituals of worship, when the Temple was no more a house of prayer, worship and mercy. Greed, corruption and profiteering had infiltrated sacred services, just like the selling posts had penetrated the Temple’s sacred courts. Is the church of today any different? The institutional church has to be constantly soul searching and discerning to avoid this trap.

We are also the “temple of the Holy Spirit”. God dwells in sacred centre of our being. Are we worshipping Him in spirit and in truth? Or has our temples become a marketplace, no more a house of prayer? What has infiltrated your lives? Are you truthful or hypocritical in living your faith?

Why is hypocrisy bad? Some say hypocrisy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Lying, cheating and deceiving are the signs of hypocrisy. It perpetuates division, resentment and sows the seeds of war. Besides it’s destructive energy, it destroys the hypocrite himself, who breaks the 8th Commandment ( bearing false witness), next, violating all other commandments. Hypocrisy is anti-salvation, and that’s why Jesus hates it.

In the desert, the wild beasts within us appear. On the mountain, the new-found faith takes you to the plains of the suffering, to go beyond erecting tents. The hypocrites will encounter an angry Jesus, while the truthful and honest will meet the merciful Lord in the Temple.