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The Great Paradox

**... they do not practice what they preach** (Matthew 23:3).
Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10; Psalms 131:1-3; I Thessalonians 2:7-9,13; Matthew 23:1-12

Sermon Topic Hypocrisy

Sermon Week Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 23:3


In a "Peanuts" cartoon strip, Little Lucy, who is known to be ever-ready with unsolicited advice, is playing right-field in a baseball game. Charlie Brown is pitching. "Let's win one for a change Charlie Brown," Lucy cries out. Charlie Brown then throws his first pitch and the batter hits the ball to right-field. But Lucy makes no attempt to catch it. She just stands there and does nothing. Charlie Brown yells out at her, "If you're so interested in winning, why didn't you try to catch the ball?" To which a defiant Lucy replies, "My role is strictly advisory."

The Scribes and the Pharisees, whom Jesus castigates in today's Gospel Lesson, seem to be in that kind of "Little Lucy" mode. They're ever-ready to act in an advisory capacity. They're ever-ready to preach and teach the law of God about right-living, as they understand it. And yet, Jesus warns His disciples ...

"You must do what they tell you and listen to what they say, but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!" (Mt. 23:4).

We recall the "Parable of the Last Judgment" in which Jesus spells out in the clearest terms our Number One priority in life as a Christian People. In the parable, the King says to those on his right hand, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the Kingdom prepared for you ... For I was hungry and you gave me food ... thirsty and you gave me drink ... a stranger and you made me welcome ... naked and you clothed me ... sick and you visited me ... in prison and you came to me" (Mt. 25:34-36).

Notice, Jesus did not say, "I was hungry and you felt sorry for Me ... I was naked and you wished with all your heart that I had a full wardrobe ... I was sick and you felt badly about my condition ... I was imprisoned [...]

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