Holy Door

There is a “Holy Door” at St Meinrad Archabbey, in St. Meinrad, Indiana.  These special doors are usually opened only once every 25 years and for a limited time. Pope Francis asked for these special doors (located in certain churches all over the world) to be open earlier than the normal interval to focus on the quality of mercy. You get a plenary indulgence for walking through and reciting a prayer in the church (along with a few other obligations). Each church that has a Holy Door should have information on what is required.

From reading the letter Pope Francis wrote about it, he wants this sacrament available to everyone.  He did not indicate that this is just for Catholics.

Here is the sign at the door in St. Meinrad.



Here is the door from the outside.


Here is the doorknob.


Here is the door from the inside.


Normally these doors are locked or in some cases even bricked up.  They are never doors that you would just happen to walk through – they are never the main doors.  Not all Catholic churches have these special doors set aside for this sacrament.

What is a sacrament?  It is “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual gift.”  These doors are reminders of the grace and mercy that God grants us – has granted us, will grant us.  We, being forgetful beings by the very nature of our being human, forget that God loves us unconditionally, and constantly welcomes us back when we stray.  We forget that God is the father that runs to greet us when we have wandered away, just like in the story of the Prodigal Son.

Going through a Holy Door doesn’t save you – you are already redeemed by Jesus.  That bill has already been paid.  But going through reminds you of that gift, reminds you that you are eternally loved.

A Plenary Indulgence is not a “get out of hell free card”, or a “get into heaven free card”.  You’ll have to look it up to know what the Catholic Church means by that term.  As for me, I don’t hold with the idea of indulgences or of penance, because they go against the message of Jesus.  Indulgences say that the Church, in the person of the ordained ministers of the Catholic Church, is able to forgive you for your sins, which is not something any human can do.  That is something God, and God alone, does. The idea of penance indicates that you have to pay for your sins yourself, which would mean that you are ignoring the price that Jesus paid for you on the cross.  Yes, we are to constantly be on guard for our sin, our times of “missing the mark”, and turn away from it and turn towards the Light that is God.  We are to make amends for our actions, certainly, but we can never buy our way into God’s love – that is something we already have.

Rebuild the church


St. Francis saw this cross in the church of San Damiano and heard it say “Rebuild my church”. He then did literally that – stone by stone he repaired a falling down church near his home.

But what if it is more than that – not a building, but the idea? Remember Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church” and renamed Simon to Peter, which means “rock”.

The church is a group of people, not a place.

Saint Peter was never ordained, neither was Saint Francis of Assisi. The title of Saint was given long after they died as honorifics, as descriptors of their goodness and adherence to the Way.

Remember, Jesus never ordained anyone, never built a church out of stones. “Church” is meant to be a collection of people working towards a common goal, not a collection of cinderblocks.

The Church Jesus intended is one that is living, dynamic, real, present. It makes a difference in the world by helping people. Remember his final exhortations to Peter, his rock. Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. He tells him three times to counter the three times that Peter denied him.

The church has nothing to do with actions or behaviors. Whether women cover their hair or wear modest clothing or not is incidental. Who people make love to or not is incidental.

Remember Jesus repeatedly quoted the prophet Hosea saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. God wants our loving service not the incidentals. God would rather have nudists who run a soup kitchen then people who cover their bodies from head to toe and all they do is meet once a week to “have church” by praising God together.

God doesn’t want our prayers and our songs. God wants us to feed his sheep, to heal them. God wants our actions more than our praise. Our best form of praise is to serve God by serving our neighbors. Not by judging them or by pointing out how they are not serving God in the way we think they should.

We cannot be codependent Christians, constantly finding fault. We must find and bring joy wherever we go. Who is hungry? Feed them. Who is in prison? Visit them. Work for justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.

This is how we rebuild the church.

Gifts to Jesus – an Epiphany meditation

So what gift are you going to give Jesus today?

Remember the story of the little drummer boy? I think it’s appropriate that the story of the Magi happens on the 12th day of Christmas, the one with the 12 drummers drumming in the Christmas carol “The Twelve days of Christmas”. We often talk about the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that Jesus received from the Magi but I think what is most important is the gift that the drummer boy gave him. He gave him the only thing he could give him. He didn’t give him anything that had to be wrapped. He gave him his best. He played his drum the best way he knew how, from his heart. That is the kind of gift to Jesus wants. Jesus wants us to give the best of ourselves to him and for him.

Jesus often says in the Gospels “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. When he says that, he’s quoting from the prophet Hosea. Jesus doesn’t want your money. He wants your love and your service and your heart and your compassion.

So often, people talk about all that Jesus has done for them. They talk about how he sacrificed his life for their sins or how he promised them eternal life. They talk about how he saved them. But what happens after that? This isn’t a one way transaction. After that is when we have to prove ourselves worthy of that gift, “to bear fruit worthy of redemption”. That is when we have to give our gifts.

We give gifts to Jesus when we feed the hungry, show compassion, volunteer our time to help people who are needy. We give gifts to Jesus when we open our hearts and our homes to people who are fleeing injustice and war and oppression. We give gifts to Jesus when we treat every single person as if they are Jesus, remembering that he said “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me”.

Poem – what Church really is

Christmas stamp

I dream of a world
where people understand
that you don’t
to church.
You are Church.

That service is what God wants,
not hymns,
not prayers from a book.

Where people see every window
as a church window
and see the whole world
through it.

Where church buildings
are more like
thrift stores,
the Red Cross,
food banks,
soup kitchens.

Where they aren’t a place
to escape the world
but to equip people
to serve it

– not by preaching the Gospel
but by being a living example of it.

Healing in the Sabbath

Let us look at all the various examples of Jesus healing people on the Sabbath that are throughout the Gospels. This is one of the things he did that upset the Jewish leaders enough to want to have him killed. They accused him of being in violation of the Law of Moses. What “crime” was committed?

Matthew 12:9-14
9 Moving on from there, He entered their synagogue. 10 There He saw a man who had a paralyzed hand. And in order to accuse Him they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 11 But He said to them, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 A man is worth far more than a sheep, so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath. 13 Then He told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored, as good as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Luke 12:10-17
10 As He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, 11 a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” 13 Then He laid His hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded by telling the crowd, “There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water? 16 Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17 When He had said these things, all His adversaries were humiliated, but the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things He was doing.

Luke 14:1-6
One Sabbath, when He went to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching Him closely. 2 There in front of Him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. 3 In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away. 5 And to them, He said, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 To this they could find no answer.

John 5:1-15
After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. 3 Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [—waiting for the moving of the water, 4 because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had]. 5 One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.” 8 “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” 9 Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.” 11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” 12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

The Luke 14:1-6, Luke 12:10-17, and Matthew 12:9-14 verses all sound similar, with Jesus pointing out that the accusers will rescue or release an animal on the Sabbath. One would hope that if they have compassion on an animal, they’d have a similar amount of compassion for a human being. He’s trying to appeal to their reason and logic, rather than blindly following a rule.

In the Matthew 12:9-14 verses, the Pharisees are trying to set him up to see if he is going to break the Law. In the Luke 14:1-6 verses, the one most like it in wording (and very likely the same story except for the details of what is wrong with the person), it looks like Jesus is trying to set the Pharisees up.

Here is a list of all the things that you can’t do on the Sabbath according to the Law of Moses. Many activities are derived from work that was required to complete the Temple.

“Sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying, untying, sewing stitches, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, flaying, tanning, scraping hide, marking hides, cutting hide to shape, writing two or more letters, erasing two or more letters, building, demolishing, extinguishing a fire, kindling a fire, putting the finishing touch on an object, and finally, transporting an object between a private domain and the public domain, or for a distance of 4 cubits within the public domain.”

This is a pretty extensive list. But where is “healing” forbidden? Where is it listed as “work” that you can’t do on the Sabbath? Perhaps “Putting the finishing touch on an object” – because Jesus, by healing someone, was making them complete. What really got Jesus in trouble was that he was pointing out that their rigid adherence to the letter of the Law meant that they couldn’t grasp the spirit of the Law. They followed the Law more than they followed God. He was a threat to their authority, and they were afraid that other people would start to deviate. They were afraid that their tightly woven system was starting to unravel.

In the John 5:1-15 verses, the “crime” is carrying. The man that Jesus healed is carrying his bedroll home. The Pharisees did not know that he had just been healed – all they knew is that he was carrying something, which is forbidden. Even today in Orthodox communities it is forbidden to carry anything at all on the Sabbath – not a purse, not a book, not a pen – nothing. Interestingly, the Pharisees were not amazed that he had been healed. They didn’t want to meet this miracle worker to see if he might be the Messiah. They wanted to cite him for working on the Sabbath.

I am sad that the man told them who had healed him when he found out. What an ungrateful way to show thanks for being healed of a disease that had afflicted him for 38 years – by betraying him to the authorities! I can only hope that he didn’t realize that they were plotting his death.

One very striking example of “working” on the Sabbath and its punishment is found in Numbers 15:32-36. I include this as a historical precedent to show what they did to Sabbath-breakers.

32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community. 34 They placed him in custody because it had not been decided what should be done to him. 35 Then the LORD told Moses, “The man is to be put to death. The entire community is to stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the entire community brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

They weren’t kidding. Break a law, and we will kill you. In this case, the authorities told the whole community to do it – and they did. Stone by stone, they didn’t build the Temple. They killed a member of their community.

As a student of the Torah, Jesus knew this story and all these rules in how to be observant of the Law. The most amazing part is that Jesus knew the risk, and did it anyway. He was killed for healing people, and proved in his resurrection that even that couldn’t stop him. Jesus teaches us that it is better to follow God and live – even if it means you will be sentenced to death, than to follow the laws of men and live – but only half-way. A life without God is not a life.

(All translations are HCSB)

Who is our master?

The prophet Hosea speaks to us right now, warning us about our love of money.

Hosea 8:4
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but without my knowledge.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction. (RSV)

This could be read as literally making idols – of melting down the silver and gold to reshape them into sculptures to worship. But I think it is deeper than that, and more immediate. What if it is about worshiping silver and gold themselves, about thinking that money will keep us safe?

When we think that our pension plan, our savings, our get-rich-quick schemes will save us, we are putting our faith in money and not in God. We are saying that we are in charge by all of our money-gaining efforts. But we forget that the bank can default on its loans, an economic depression could happen, embezzlement – anything.

Our house could be leveled by a tornado and we’d lose all the money we’d sewn into the mattress. It would go flying away with all the other debris of our lives. Our treasure would turn into trash in an instant.

Jesus knew about this verse. He often quoted from Hosea. He referred to his own resurrection with this previous verse –

Hosea 6:2

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (RSV)

He referred to this next verse often to try to teach people what really matters isn’t following the rules but following God.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (RSV)

So what does Jesus say about the worship of silver and gold as idols? Jesus is all about not worrying. Of course, don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about your future. But further – don’t worry about anything. Worry can make you sick.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (RSV)

This doesn’t mean that we should think that the future is going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean that all followers of God will have wonderful houses and perfect health. What it means is that we don’t need to worry about it – whatever happens is whatever needs to happen. It is when we struggle against God that we get hurt.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:28
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)

Hear that? God works for good.

So what do we do? How do we know how to act? Jesus was asked that very question by a lawyer – someone who was all about following rules. This is in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV)

Part of loving God is trusting that God has it all under control. Part of loving your neighbor is serving. Part of both is not worrying about it. I don’t mean don’t worry in the sense of don’t do anything about it, or forget about it. But don’t stress over it. God is in charge. Let God rule your life instead of you trying to.

Desire mercy and not sacrifice.

Jesus asks us to learn what the phrase “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” means. If we understand it, then we have the key for how to obey God’s commandments.

The religious authorities of the day were always trying to find a way to trip Jesus up. They were looking for a way to prove he was violating the religious laws. At that time, violating religious law was equivalent to violating state law. Not doing things in the right way was not just a sin, it was also a crime. If the violation was severe enough, it was punishable by death.

We don’t live in such a time or state here in America, but the problem is still the same. The wages of sin are death. We would be wise to think about what we do in our religious observance. Are we obeying the letter of the law, or the spirit? Are we showing mercy, or showing off?

Matthew 9:10-13
10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Later on, he repeats this idea during a different altercation with the religious authorities.

Matthew 12:1-8
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.”

Immediately after this, we hear one of the many stories where Jesus healed on the Sabbath. This “work” got him in trouble with the priestly rulers of the day.

Matthew 12:9-14
9 And he went on from there, and entered their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.

Here’s the Bible quote that Jesus is referring to –

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.

We hear it echoed in the words of the prophet Isaiah –

Isaiah 58:1-12
“Cry aloud, spare not,
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily,
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and thou seest it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.
“If you take away from the midst of you the yoke,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your desire with good things,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

And also in the words of the prophet Micah –

Micah 6:6-8
6 “With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

And also in the words of the prophet Samuel –

1 Samuel 15:22-23
22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

We are not to obey the letter of the law more than the spirit of the law. God does not want mindless obedience. God wants us to be mindful and awake. God wants us to show mercy. Jesus warns us to be mindful of the teachings of religious authorities who do not show mercy.

Matthew 16:5-12
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sad′ducees.”7 And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sad′ducees.”12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sad′ducees.

A little later on, Jesus had just healed a man who was blind, mute, and possessed. The religious authorities decided that Jesus had to be in league with the devil to be able to do this. Jesus pointed out that the devil doesn’t heal. Their hypocrisy and blind obedience to the religious rules was their sin.

Matthew 12:33-37
33 “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jesus continues to warn us about blindly following religious authorities and rules. He wants us to be always mindful of what we are doing.

Matthew 23:1-36
Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; 22 and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, 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.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah the son of Barachi′ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.

So, think about your own religious observance. This isn’t about blaming religious teachers, or feeling superior to the authorities of Jesus’ time. This is about right now. If you go to church, what are the practices like? Do they spend most of the tithe money on the building and salaries for the ministers, rather than on helping the poor? Do they spend their time on trying to raise money for the church rather than serving God?

And what do you do with your time? Do you talk about God’s love – or do you show it with your actions?

Do people know you are a Christian because of the cross you wear, or the life you live?

All Bible quotations are RSV.