James 1:12-18
Mark 8:14-21


Christ is presented as welcoming, tolerant, and forgiving in the gospels.  One thing that really gets under his skin is hypocrisy.  Today’s reading from Mark follows the account of Christ’s feeding of four thousand and a cynical demand by some Pharisees for a sign.  Jesus warns the disciples not to be taken in by their disingenuous leadership. Authentic leadership is service. In a portent of what is to come through his Eucharist and Passion, Christ recounts his breaking of bread to feed the needy.    

In Matthew 23, we find Jesus telling a crowd and his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Do what they tell you to do, but not what they do. They don’t practice what they preach. 4 They place heavy burdens on people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help.  And in Luke 12, Jesus warns, 1“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. “

The sting in the tail of today’s caution is sharp: ‘Are you still without perception?’.  Do you still not get it? Often, we don’t get it.  Matthew 23 goes on to warn how the Pharisees bask in the trapping of power and the obsequiousness of their sycophants.     

Pope Francis put it this way, “Jesus frequently returns to the issue of hypocrisy many times when he sees that doctors of the Law think themselves to be perfect: they fulfil the commandments as though it were a mere formality”. For…. “they forgot that they had been chosen together with the People of God, and not on their own. They forgot the history of their people, the history of salvation, of their election, of the Covenant, of the promise”.

“……..they did what they were supposed to do, they were apparently good”. But “they were ethicists, ethicists without goodness because they had lost the sense of belonging to a people”. *

Today, as we stand on Lent’s doorstep, we have a chance to re-evaluate any self-serving, narcissistic notions we may have, to open our hearts to the dream of our Creator, to reconfigure ourselves to Christ, the servant and to break the bread of compassion wherever there is a need. Love, greater than rules.

Brian Norman has been associated with the Passionists in various ways since he was three weeks old when he squared off with Fr Placid Millay CP over the baptismal font at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.