Jesus’ harsh words for his religious leaders are because he felt that they were frauds. They made, in perfect fashion, all the outward pious signs but the signs were empty for inside; they were mean and cruel men. They made life difficult for their followers and did nothing to help them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenging his disciples not to become the pious frauds that he has called out some of the religious leaders to be. Just like the prophet Malachi in the first reading, Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of those who are supposed to be the leaders of the people and who are called to lead by example but do not.
And today it is no different. In the church and in our nation some leaders fail. I include myself in the group for I am far from sinless. We have priests and bishops who have covered up the sinful behavior of other priests and bishops and our political leaders, who claim to be people of faith, whose trade is fraud and whose goals are to mislead the people for personal gain. Our most senior politicians lie without hesitation and their actions show they care nothing for the poor and most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers.
Jesus challenged the integrity of the religious leaders of his day, he challenged them to live up to the call they had received from God! Pope Francis has challenged us to do the same, and for that, some plot against him or ignore him, sure that their pious acts alone will save them.
But Pope Francis has heard the call of Jesus -- it is not the perfectly performed pious act that God desires of us, but rather LOVE! Lavish love for the immigrant, for refugees and for the poor and the abandoned, for the one who is “other” from me.
As I have asked many times, am I willing to open myself up to dangers by living as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Am I willing to risk being a disciple of Jesus Christ knowing what it led to for him and for some of his closest followers? Can I open my heart wide enough to allow myself to be the beloved of God and to live from that identity, and risk my life for God? What can I do so as to better let God transform my inner self so as to match my outer actions of charity and love?