Pari-seo – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 11:42-46, Wednesday of Week 28 in Ordinary Time

pharisees (1)

Jesus was much kinder to prostitutes and tax collectors than to Pharisees and teachers of the law. Oh, Jesus didn’t condone prostitutes and tax collectors. He socialized with them, yes, but with the intention of turning them around. He couldn’t turn Pharisees around, though. They were busy being righteous. The purpose of tithing in those days was charity. Tithes were alms given to the poor, the sojourners, orphans, and widows. Pharisees were meticulous about tithing so they tithed even on things the law didn’t stipulate—like “mint & cumin.” Did they tithe with the intention of helping the poor, the sojourners, orphans, and widows? Not to Jesus, they didn’t. They did it for self-reference and self-praise. And it didn’t help their cause to be so vociferous about people’s violations of the law. Because under those bleached robes festered the moral decay they rallied against so furiously. Jesus saw through those robes. “Unseen graves,” the Gospel says, “over which people unknowingly walk.”

Back in the novitiate, our novice masters taught: “Watch out for your RBP’s, reactive behavior patterns. If someone constantly triggers a negative reaction from you, chances are, you just might have that same attitude/behavior you hate that he has. You’re just not aware of it.” We have a funny Tagalog expression for that, “Ang magnanakaw, galit sa kapwa magnanakaw.” It’s true, isn’t it? It happens everywhere: work place, religious community, family. Someone I know, for example, goes into a big funk when people don’t reply to his text/email as soon as he expects them. Oh, you don’t hear the end of it when he starts ranting about the virtue of courtesy, gratitude, decency. But we notice, whenever we text him, more often than not, he does not reply! Not even when he’s the one asking for a favor! So, our RBP’s, our reactive behavior patterns, really kick in when we see an “avatar” of ourselves in the person we’re reacting very strongly against—even when nobody else is so affected. When that happens, we become “Pharisaic.” Pharisees seethed at the worms in people’s lives because the same maggots crawled under those grave-like robes.

But you know, sisters and brothers, call me crazy but I’ve always dreaded that the word pari is found in the word, pariseo. I think it’s no accident that the middle-letter of pariseo is “I”. Whatever we say, God is the quintessential philologist. For all we know, he deliberately coined the word, pari, and made the letter “I” the last letter. When we begin to believe that we are the standard of righteousness, that’s when the “I” moves to the center, when pari morphs into pariseo. When Pope Francis earmarked a whole year for Mercy, you could sense from his rhetoric a protest against priests, who loved the law but hated the person of the sinner, and yet we were guilty of the same perversities we denounced.

Siguro ang mensahe ganito: sa kahuli-hulihan, que pari, que laiko, wala talaga tayong maaaring ipagmalaki sa Diyos. Even if we are sincerely righteous, none of us could seriously boast of anything before God. To different degrees, we are righteous, and to different degrees, we are all self-righteous, too. But whatever goodness or purity we’re tempted to praise ourselves for, we do not have a claim on God’s salvation. God does not owe us anything. So, the point is not so much that we are matuwid. The whole point is that in spite of ourselves, it’s God who is mabait.

Here’s a funny quote about Pharisees from a Baptist pastor. “Have you ever wondered what a church full of Pharisees would be like? (1) they would all attend every service. (2) they would all tithe. (3) they would all work in the church. And (4), they would all go to hell.”

*image from the Internet

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