28th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)
Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Sounds like rush hour in a New York City subway. In another manuscript of Luke, the crowds were “choking each other.”1 The Gospel writer used hyperbole to emphasize Jesus’ growing popularity.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.
Leaven (zumé)—aged, sour dough often translated as “yeast”—symbolized the spreading influence of concealed evil in this passage. Like an invisible virus, hypocrisy (hupokrisis) infected the community and sickened the spirit with little detection. The status quo enabled authorities to carry out their religious observances masked in piety and honor. Leaders and followers participated in the same masquerade.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.
Under the divine gaze, nothing is hidden. The ego-protecting buffer zone of human respect is an illusion. No barrier exists between God and creation. Every action, thought, word, and intention transpires in God who sustains all being. The communion of saints in the Trinity is utterly transparent and free. Jesus’ warning is a gift of divine mercy, as truth cleanses and purifies the soul for divine union.
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Hypocrisy and human respect flow from the same source: the fear of the judgment of neighbors. Carnal persons prioritize visible realities over invisible ones, public image over authenticity, the body over the soul. Bodily life is secondary to purity of heart; sin is worse than death. The martyrs proclaim that God alone is to be feared.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Jesus’ warnings and rebukes are all gifts from a loving Father who desires our ultimate beatitude. From the greatest to the least, every child of God is invited to return to the Father in repentance and love. We are his beloved children.
1 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV), Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1985, p. 954.