When Jesus walked the earth, the Pharisees felt threatened. Who was this man teaching and preaching? How dare this man call himself Jewish and yet break the Jewish law? And worse, when we admonish him for it, he criticizes us as hypocrites! But we are the ones holding up the laws of our faith!
Two thousand and more years later, it appears things haven’t changed. Rigid adherence to the law can be good, but this Gospel story is a good reminder that helps us put it in its place.
“23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ 25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ 27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’ ” ~ Matthew 2: 20-28
Pope Francis has been criticized by those rigid Catholics for what they see as taking liberties with the laws of the Church. However, unlike Jesus, Pope Francis has not violated any doctrine of our great faith. In this modern day, these current Pharisees go so far as to twist facts, take quotes out of context, and invent violations to support their dislike of Pope Francis because he reaches out to the ones they most disdain – those Catholics who feel most disenfranchised by the Catholic faith.
Pharisaical behavior has always existed, but with the onset of the digital age, new and younger Pharisees are being born. Journals and blogs that call themselves Catholic find fault in everything Pope Francis says and does. If they have to misquote, twist, or take his words out of context to support their story that Pope Francis is somehow violating doctrine, they will do it. Upon careful, honest examination of every criticism that has been made, Pope Francis is exonerated.
In his homily of May 5, Pope Francis speaks about rigidity he sees in young people. About this he cited the story of Saul who went from persecuting Christians from his staunch perspective to patiently evangelizing people. Saul was able to change because he allowed himself to be led by God. Pope Francis said,
“Pray that those who are too rigid learn to follow the way of Christ and his meekness… many young people in the church today who have fallen into the temptation of rigidity. Some are honest, they are good and we must pray that the Lord help them grow along the path of meekness.”