Jesus warns us to take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees. St. Mark adds, “and the Sadducees,” while St. Luke adds “and Herod.” In Sts. Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, the disciples think Jesus is talking about bread, but later figure out, according to St. Matthew, that Jesus is speaking of the teaching of the Pharisees. However, St. Luke tells us that Jesus himself specifically says that the leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy.
- They wash only the outside of the cup, but inside is full of greed and wickedness
- They are meticulous tithe givers (even tithing garden herbs), but have passed by justice and love of God
- They love the best seats and greetings in public
- They are like graves that people walk over not knowing they are walking over a grave
- They load people with burdens that they do not help carry
- They have taken away the key of knowledge and do not enter themselves
In past blog posts, I have reveled somewhat in what I have called a “holy hypocrisy.” Holy hypocrisy aims at inner transformation by beginning with outward changes, it forces my actions to conform to the holy behaviour that is not yet fully fixed in my heart, but that I want to be fully lodged there. However, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees that Jesus is talking about has nothing to do with holiness. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is not aimed at inner transformation. It is aimed at hiding. It is a continuation of Adam and Eve’s hiding in Paradise. It is a covering of what is shameful not to heal it, but in an attempt to deceive and avoid consequences. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees focuses on what is seen, on the outside of the cup, in order to hide what is unseen, the inside of the cup.
Take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees. It slips in when we are not paying attention, like a yeast floating in the air. It’s the old leaven that we have to purge out of ourselves—not if it appears, but when it appears. The leaven of the Pharisees is to hide our sin, to cover up by pretending goodness and doing what outwardly seems righteous. However, rather than hiding as our fore-parents did, we need to run to our loving Father saying, “I have sinned and I am no longer worthy to be called your child.” When we do this, our loving Father receives us, clothes us and celebrates a Eucharistic sacrifice for us. And then we say to ourselves, “Why did I waste all that time in the dirty cup of my own passions and fears when love and forgiveness was waiting all of the time just for my return?”