Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Matthew 23:1-12


Today’s readings focus on our calling to moral authenticity and a rejection of superficial piety and spiritual pride.  The reading from Isaiah, in searing rhetoric, calls out the leaders and people of Judah as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, full of wickedness and hypocrisy.  Through the prophet, the Lord calls for justice and help for the oppressed, especially those who are most vulnerable in a patriarchal society, the widow and the orphan.  Yet the Lord constantly offers the grace of repentance, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’.  Psalm 49 reinforces the words of the prophet: the Lord does not ask for more animal sacrifices from those ‘who despise my law and throw my words to the winds’.  It is a sacrifice of thanksgiving that truly gives honour to God.  The reading from Matthew’s Gospel warns against spiritual pride and calls the disciples of Jesus to humility in imitation of their master and teacher, the Christ.  The reading is directed against religious elites of the Jewish people in New Testament times: its message for us is to gratefully recall and value what the Church owes to its Jewish heritage and to note what Pope Francis has repeatedly said in criticism of clericalism in the Catholic Church today.  For all Catholics, spiritual pride is to be shunned: ‘Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Robert Gascoigne is a parishioner at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.  He is a theologian who taught for many years at the Australian Catholic University.