Some people think that religion must always be very serious and even somber. It's not supposed to be fun! Today's readings are a reminder that true religion should be joyful. In the New American Bible the single word "joy" appears 219 times; while the words "sad", "sadden", "saddens", "sadly" and "sadness" occur only a total of 24 times.
The Catholic Church celebrates two "Joy" Sundays: the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete, Latin for "Rejoice") and the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare, another Latin word for "Rejoice".) We are supposed to be somewhat sad during Advent, but we cannot help but be filled with joy because we know how the story ends, with the Nativity.
PHARISEES AND TAX COLLECTORS: Jesus strongly condemned religious hypocrisy. He illustrates this with a story that has lost much of its impact over the centuries. Partially because of the Gospels the name "Pharisee" has taken on a negative aspect. Actually, the Pharisees were the "good guys". They were a political group organized to defend the rights of migrant farm workers. Modern Judaism can be traced to the better ideals of the Pharisee movement.
In the first century tax collectors were not merely civil servants, they were mercenaries who actually bid for the right to extort from their fellow Jews. Jesus turned the tables by showing that the supposed "sinner" had more humility than the self-proclaimed "holy man."
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