The Pharisee Within

We have to make a difference between the Pharisees and the Pharisaic attitude.

My imagination, very often, was captured by unnoticed, forgotten, and colourless characters in the Bible. May be it has something to do with my life, from Lot to Jonathan, Uriah to Pharisees of Jesus time. I love Pharisees because they were keen followers as well ardent listeners of Jesus. Or may be they still continue to exist through me. Only in adverse situations, very often, the best in you will be revealed. So in this sense the Pharisees helped Jesus to a certain extend to bring out the best in Him.

But how Jesus reacted to Pharisaic attitude is really frightening. We see in Mt.23:23 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you have practiced without neglecting the others.” The most important question asked by Pharisees may be a difficult one to choose. But I feel the question they asked about the foundation of the church is most important in our time.

In the gospel we see Pharisees asking Jesus Mt.19:3 “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” As they expected, Jesus defended the family saying Mt.19:6, “what God has joined let no one separate.” So when He defended the unity and indissolubility of marriage, He was building up a bulwark for family life.

The family is designed by God to be the clearest demonstration and reflection of the unity and diversity experienced within the Trinity. Therefore it is within a family that we realize, enjoy, and demonstrate in its perfection the relationship enjoyed within the Trinity. Thus the most mystical reality in Christianity is revealed – through family – in its simplest form. So also as we see in the book of ‘Song of Solomon’, – in marriage love – there is a real triad the lover, the beloved and the unifying force between them – the love.

Philosopher Pierre Teilhard De Chardin says, “God created everything out of love.” Thus everything was created in the original covenant of love. A husband and wife in this covenant of love between them and with God ‘procreate’ new life and in their procreation there is a trace, an echo, an image and sharing in the original covenant by which God created all life out of his love.

Late Pope John Paul II too says, “Love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to a new life.” If it is there in the basic structure of the society then the main concern of everyone will be ‘how to serve?’ and not ‘how am I served?’ In this spirit St. Paul in his letter to 2nd Corinthians 12:15 say, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.” Therefore the orientation of anyone to one’s own self, in any walk of life, is the reversal of the order set by God.

So the question is as Christians are we able to experience God’s kingdom? Or like Pharisees do we fail to strike a balance between religiosity and spirituality and miss out what we set out for? Very often we do miss out and I can vouch for it.

In the book of Joshua chapter 24, we see Joshua helping the Israelites to walk down their memory lane and to experience, how God was with them in order to make a new covenant between God and His people. But we know they failed. Why? The answer is there in the same chapter when we read further in the verse 31 “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” So as to say, when people with God experience vanished from them, the image of the Lord also vanished like a morning mist from their hearts and minds for good.

Are we also in the same state? Do we look for people with God experiences? If it is so, we are like the musk deer that runs the whole forest in search of fragrance unaware of the fact that it is within. Here once again Sri Aurobindo’s thought becomes relevant. He says, “‘Agni’ in Rig Veda is not mere fire but ‘A Divine Spark’.” We all have this divine spark within. All that we should do is to fan it so that the fire can engulf the whole body. Only then the unifying force that is love will be kindled in all of us. This awakening of Divine Spark within will be a second civilization for humanity as we will begin to see all relationships from a new perspective.

So indirectly Jesus says to each one of us today, when someone divorces his/her spouse or desert anyone in any relationship for that matter, the question he/she will have to face is not, ‘where is your spouse or brother?’ But the very first question that we see in the Bible, Genesis 3:9, “where are you?”

There is a certain amount of Pharisaic attitude in all of us. What we need is a character of docility to accept our short comings and grow further in life. If the little home at Nazareth was the foundation for Jesus we all need to start from our little homes and communities. As the founder of S V D, St. Arnold Janssen has dreamt for all his brothers and sisters, Let us also open our hearts to all the others without any expectation, by accepting each and everyone and thus become one heart and many faces.

– – – written by Br. Jobin Manivelil