THE SIN OF SELF-RIGHTIOUSNESS
Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Scriptural Readings: Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 5:27-32
My dear encountered couples:
Nobody would ever say that Jesus was not a kind man. No nicer and kinder person ever walked the earth. Even many non-believers have been known to praise him for his goodness. But this is not to say that Jesus didn’t say some very cutting things. He had a way of sticking the knife into people with words - words that they needed to hear. Unfortunately, it was often words that went over their heads, or which they chose to ignore.
When Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees and scribes for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, his response was, “The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners.” I wonder how many of the Pharisees and scribes got the point. I hope some of them did.
But the trouble with being self-righteous is that self-righteous people don’t know they’re self-righteous. They think they are holy, not only in their own eyes but in the eyes of God. They think they’re the greatest things to walk the earth since Noah stepped off his boat. They think they are God’s gift to the world - holy, undefiled, sinless, and above all others - even above their closest buddies. To tell them they’re sinners like everybody else would be like telling beer drinkers and television sports’ watchers that they’re sissies. They’d laugh at you.
It was people who knew they were sinners that Jesus was able to spiritually doctor and help. People who believed in their own saintliness were beyond help. They put halos over their own heads and put themselves on pedestals for others to imitate. That’s what’s called self-righteousness. You make yourself holy, you don’t think you need God’s help to do it; and no matter how much God offers forgiveness of sins, the self-righteous person doesn’t accept it. “What sins?” would be his response.
And so, Jesus could not help the self-righteous, among which seems to have been many Pharisees and scribes. Well, you and I know we commit sins that need forgiving, don’t we? That’s why we attend mass and hear confessions. Jesus is the doctor of our souls. Let’s see him often for spiritual checkups.