Christians who cling to the law and not to love are like the hypocrite Pharisees in the Gospel, Pope Francis said in today’s homily.
After Jesus meets a sick person in a Pharisee’s home on the Sabbath day in Luke 14:1-6, he asks the Pharisees and scholars of the Jewish law present: “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”
Receiving only silent stares, Jesus heals the man and then tells the Pharisees: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”
Jesus’ actions show that love and justice, not an excessive attachment to the laws, are the path to holiness, Pope Francis said.
“This way of life of being attached to the laws, distanced (the Pharisees) from love and from justice. They followed the laws and they neglected justice,” he said. “They followed the laws and they neglected love.”
“And for these people Jesus had only one word (to describe them): hypocrites,” the Pope continued.
“Closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation… Men who only knew how to close (doors).”
Throughout the New Testament, one of the most difficult things for some of the Jews to accept is the abolition of the old law, which bound the Jews to 613 commandments, or Mitzvot. Because Christ establishes a new covenant between God and man, the old law is fulfilled and no longer necessary.
St. Paul spends a great deal of time in his letters chiding new Christians for clinging to the old law as well.
The new covenant of love established through the incarnation of Jesus is the true path to God and eternal life, Pope Francis said.
“Jesus draws close to us: his closeness is the real proof that we are proceeding along the true path. That’s because it’s the path which God has chosen to save us: through his closeness. He draws close to us and was made man. His flesh, the flesh of God is the sign; God’s flesh is the sign of true justice.”
Christ’s flesh, not the old law, is the bridge from man to God, he said. Pope Francis concluded by saying that he hoped the examples of Jesus' love and closeness in the Gospel can help modern-day Christians from sliding into hypocrisy.