A True Kingdom
Reading: Luke 11:37-54
And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, “Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.” And he said, “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
In today’s passage we read how a Pharisee is surprised to see how Jesus sits down to eat without performing the ritual hand washing that for them was so important. This becomes an opportunity to demonstrate one of the main characteristics of the Kingdom that Jesus has come to announce.
The Kingdom of God must be established everywhere, and when this happens, there will no longer be any sin, nor its consequences (death, pain, and suffering). However, this Kingdom is first established within people. The Gospel does what nothing else can do: it changes hearts.
That is why Jesus tells this Pharisee that the exterior is secondary; that the ritualism into which the Pharisees have fallen reflects that their obedience is pure religiosity for show. Self-righteousness. Self-sufficiency. Appearance and only appearance. And what is inside is exactly the opposite of what they want to show. The appearance of piety is pride, seeking privileges, excuses to not love.
A scribe reacts offended, and Jesus’ response is hard, because in this Kingdom there is no place for the double-sided, the hesitation, or the hypocrisy.
The Lord tells them, “you build monuments in honor of the same prophets that your ancestors persecuted and killed, because they didn’t want to hear.” Doesn’t this make you think of the people who want to use phrases and images of Jesus, but reject the Gospel? Can’t we fall into something similar when we flood our telephones and social media with content that proclaims our piety, but that is not a faithful reflection of our real life?
The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom that transforms man at his core. A Kingdom in which there is no place for falseness. The Kingdom of God is a True Kingdom.
MEDITATE: Are we aware that many times the religious details can cause our eyes to stray from the cross? Do we cling to the Gospel as the only thing that can truly change us?