Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A

Posté par diaconos le 7 novembre 2023

Parabola delle dieci vergini

Parable of the foolish and wise virgins

Parable of the foolish and wise virgins

The Pharisees were a religious and political group of fervent Jews who, together with the Sadducees and Essenes, emerged in Palestine during the Hasmonean period, around the middle of the 2nd century BC, in response to the Hellenisation desired by the authorities of the time. The author of the Oral Torah, which anticipated rabbinism, this movement was part of Second Temple Judaism, whose development it influenced.

Extinct towards the end of the 1st century, it is known to us through various sources whose renewed studies since the end of the 20th century have highlighted the difficulty of understanding its complexity. Their movement is called Pharisaism or Phariseeism. Since the rigorous application of the criteria of historicity to the sources and the more sceptical attitude of exegetes towards them, the information considered reliable on the Pharisaic movement has been considerably reduced.

 Paradoxically, this exegetical progress has made the contours of the movement less clear and less certain. It is now necessary to examine each of these sources separately, taking into account the period and context in which they were written. Speech against the scribes and Pharisees The Pharisees had been given the authority as successors of Moses. It was therefore fitting to obey their precepts, but one had to be careful not to follow their example, because they did not practise what they taught, but merely burdened others. Whatever they did, they did it to be noticed and praised by others.

To the foolish vanity of the Pharisees, Jesus contrasted the humble attitude he prescribed to his disciples: let them not be called Rabbi, Father, Warden, for they are all equal before God; let the greatest among them be the servant of all; he who humbles himself will be exalted. Jesus silenced his adversaries. He formulated their condemnation: this discourse was first addressed to the crowds and the disciples, whom Jesus wanted to protect from the spirit of the leaders of the people; then he targeted them, exposing and censuring their vices in a series of sharp apostrophes.

 This discourse was only uttered by Matthew; Mark and Luke only recorded fragments of it, which they placed at other times as modern critics attribute to Matthew. « It is entirely appropriate that at this point Jesus expresses his whole thought about his opponents ». (De Wette) « This discourse is so full of life and unity that there is no doubt that it was delivered in this way, even though it perhaps contains some elements borrowed from other discourses of Jesus ». (Meyer)

,The chair of Moses refers to the activity and authority that Moses exercised as lawgiver and leader of the people. They sat on this chair as successors of the great servant of God. The rabbis used the same expression to say that one teacher succeeded another in teaching. Because the men of this party had hitherto shown increasing hostility to Jesus, because they had resisted his warnings and planned to take over from him, he renounced all consideration for them and broke with them.

 The scribes, similar in every way to the Pharisees, had taken the same position. They were the sopherim of the Old Testament, the men of the books. In the Gospels they are called scribes, or legalists, or teachers of the law, because the main subject of their studies was the law of Moses itself and its various applications to the life of the people. Since this law was both religious and civil, the scribes were both theologians and jurists. They were often appointed with the Pharisees, because most of them belonged to that sect, or with the chief priests, whose advisors they were in the application of the law and in cases of conscience.

 The scribes always played a very active role in opposing Jesus. They spied on him, criticised his conduct and tried to surprise him with insidious questions. Most interpreters place several restrictions on this recommendation of Jesus, since the scribes and Pharisees could teach false things that, in this case, the disciples were neither to observe nor do. Jesus assumed that they taught the Law of Moses from the pulpit where they sat. To bind burdens is a figurative expression that means: to gather into one body all the commandments of the law, with the innumerable and meticulous ceremonial prescriptions that the Pharisees had added to them, in order to demand their observance.

 These burdens, heavy and difficult to bear, where neither grace nor love helped to carry them, the Pharisees imposed them on others; but, far from taking them upon themselves, they did not even stir them up with their finger : « And all their works they do to be seen of men; for they spread their phylacteries and lengthen the fringes of their garments. (Mt 23, 5) Jesus cited these details as examples of their vain and hypocritical desire to be seen by people. Phylacteries, still used by Jews, are strips of parchment on which words of Scripture are written. During prayer they were attached to the left arm or forehead. This is why the Jews called these scrolls tephillim, prayers. These objects were also given the superstitious idea of an amulet or talisman.

« They made them wider to be even more sure of being seen by the people, » Jesus says. The fringes, a kind of tassel that the Jews wore on the edge of their cloaks, attributed a religious idea to them. Rabbi means teacher or doctor.The title of father, understood in a spiritual moral sense, is higher than that of teacher and indicates a greater dependence on the person to whom it is attributed. If God alone is the Father of those whom he begets with his Spirit for a new life, Christ alone is the director of those whom he leads by his word and example into the ways of this new life.

 All these titles: master, father, director, when applied to people, do nothing but deprive God and his Christ of the glory they deserve. This is how parties and sects are born. These signs of human flattery have found their way into the Christian Church just as they once did among the Jews. From humility to greatness, from humiliation to glory : this is the path to the kingdom of God, the path Jesus followed, the only one possible for his disciples.

 Addressing the scribes and Pharisees directly and shouting at them seven times : « Woe to you ! » Jesus censured all the hypocrisy of their behaviour: the hypocrisy of their position as leaders of the people : they themselves did not enter the kingdom of heaven and closed it to others. The hypocrisy of their behaviour meant that souls were more surely lost. The hypocrisy of the casuistry they applied to oaths. The hypocrisy of their formalism, which observed the minutiae of the law and neglected the more important duties.

The hypocrisy of cleaning the outside and leaving the inside dirty. All this hypocrisy made them like whitewashed sepulchres. It led them to build the sepulchres of the prophets. In sorrowful accents, Jesus expressed the deep pity he felt for this Jerusalem that had killed the prophets. He recalled the futile efforts he had made to attract her to himself; he announced her ruin and told her that she would not see him again until the day she welcomed his return in glory.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

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