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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Tuesday, 21st Week in Ordinary Time

St. Monica
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
21st Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial: St Monica

Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus Indicts the Scribes and Pharisees
(Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees,) [23] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. [24] You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

[25] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity." [26] You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean."

Commentary:
23. Mint, dill (aniseed) and cummin were herbs the Jews used in cooking or to perfume rooms. They were such insignificant items that they were not covered by the Mosaic precept on paying tithes (Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 14: 22ff); the precept did not apply to domestic animals and the more common agricultural products such as wheat, wine and olive oil. However, the Pharisees, being so intent on showing their scrupulous observance of the Law, paid tithes even of these herbs. Our Lord does not despise or reject the Law; He is simply telling people to get their priorities right: there is no point in attending to secondary details if one is neglecting what is really basic and important--justice, mercy and faith.

24. The Pharisees were so scrupulous about not swallowing any insect which the Law declared to be unclean that they went as far as to filter drinks through a linen cloth. Our Lord criticizes them for being so inconsistent--straining mosquitos, being so scrupulous about little things, yet quite happily "swallowing a camel", committing serious sins.

25-26. After reproaching the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in religious practice, our Lord now goes on to indict their two-facedness in matters of morality. The Jews used to perform elaborate washings of plates, cups and other tableware, in line with the regulations on legal cleansing (cf. Mark 7:1-4).

The example He chooses suggests a deeper level of meaning--concern for that moral purity which should characterize man's interior life. What is of prime im- portance is cleanliness of heart, an upright intention, consistency between what one says and what one does, etc.

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." -- St Jerome