“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”
In the Gospel of Matthew “righteousness” is doing the Will of God. Sometimes religious leaders, be they the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel or priests, bishops, and popes, preach but don’t practice what they preach. This is the classic definition of hypocrisy. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus condemns such religious leaders:
“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.” (Matthew 23:3-5).
Not only do such religious leaders not practice what they preach but through their interpretation of Scripture and tradition they place heavy burdens on people that can lead to scrupulosity and a joyless religious life burdened with guilt. Jesus issues an invitation to such people and to all of us:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
While Jesus challenges us to strive each day to discern and do the Will of God by showing love for God by showing love and compassion to all, He is also patient with our failings. Jesus invites us each day to repent, to turn once again to God who is always standing right beside us.