In Matthew Chapter V we are given the seven beatitudes. In today’s Gospel, Matthew Chapter XXIII Matthew gives us the seven woes. Basically, what Jesus is upset about is that the Scribes and Pharisees, who should know the importance of the Law and the Prophets, seem to have failed to understand their message. The Scribes and Pharisees have put so much emphasis on externals that they have neglected what is most important the message of the Law and the Prophets, that is one’s internal disposition or interior values are what is most important.
Jeremiah 2:4 says that it took the Babylonian Captivity for Israel to understand their identity, meaning and purpose. They had to lose everything before they came to understand God and the world as God’s creation. They had worshiped worthless idols and in doing so became worthless themselves. Even their rigorous religious mandates, their externals got in the way of authentic religious worship. In other words for them things became more important than people.
Karl Jung says that happiness cannot be pursued, it is ensured. He also says that after thirty-five years of age all questions are religious questions regardless of culture or status. The wisdom of the ancients says that identity, meaning, and happiness are discovered not purchased. So all the external rituals in the world will not make us happy or holy. Genuine happiness or holiness is a question of loving God. The way we can measure that holiness or love of God is answered by the question: “How much do we love our neighbor.”
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.