Am I Being Holy or Harsh?

March 2, 2021   Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent (Lectionary: 231)

Reading I   Is 1:10, 16-20
Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

Responsorial Psalm   50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Verse before the Gospel   Ez 18:31
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel   Mt 23:1-12
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

By Patty Breen 

If you had known me in my mid to late twenties, it is highly likely we wouldn’t have gotten along. I was what you call a “Judgy McJudgerson” type of gal.  Yes, you can find that phrase on Urban Dictionary! I judged other people like it was my second fulltime job and thought I was holier than everyone else. 

The problem was I lacked any mercy, compassion, or kindness to anyone who voted or believed differently than me.

I was harsh and heavy handed, presuming I was always right; and more importantly that my judgment came with good reason. The practice of my faith was about legalism and had nothing to do with love of God or neighbor.

In many ways, I was very much like the scribes and Pharisees Jesus talks about to his disciples in today’s Gospel. The religious leaders of Jesus’ were much like the judge-y style of a younger, less wise Patty.

These men followed all 616 Mosaic laws to a T. They made sure to tell people when they were not living up to the Law or committing a sin, but never saw the beam in their own eye.

All their religious practices were done devoutly in public so people could observe how “holy” they were.

Legalism drowns more people out of loving, personal relationships with God than we realize.


When I lack love, I lose people. When the focus is more on exterior actions of piety than the interior space of a person’s heart, that is widely problematic.  Throughout the public ministry of Jesus, we see him exude grace, loving kindness, and pastoral care to all he encountered.

Would people say the same about me? 

This question helps me to bring the idea of legalism to prayer - where in my relationship with God do I struggle with this false idol?  Is it impacting my ability to love God and my neighbor well? This Gospel reminds me to seek to love people where they are, not where I want them to be. 


Patty Breen has been working in parish ministry for over ten years and is a writer for Blessed is She. A Midwestern girl from the Mitten state, Patty finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, Ignatian spirituality, and is mildly obsessed with Thomas Merton. She is passionate about messy conversations at the intersection of faith, culture, and ministry. Her passions in ministry include ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find her writing online at America Magazine, CatholicMatch, Grotto Network, and Verily. Find her blogging and gramming about life while learning to find grace in all things.

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