Sincerity, compassion, and hard work

"Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice." Mt 23:3 

When Jesus denounces the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees, He's attempting to make them understand the condition of their hearts. The problem was not that the scribes and Pharisees ignored religion. Indeed, they had an expert grasp of its forms. What they lacked was the heart of it. They put their effort on appearing religious rather than on being religious. And they did so, apparently, in an effort to be esteemed by others.

It's interesting to consider Jesus' denunciation in relation to the life of St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440), whose feast day is today. Here was a woman who lived a life diametrically opposite that of the scribes and Pharisees. Though born of wealth and expected to live the life of a noblewoman - with all the soirees and socializing - she didn't want the attention or the social prominence. She wanted only to help the disadvantaged and to reconcile herself to the will of God. 

Known for her charity to the poor and her eagerness to serve God, she won away many wealthy Roman women from a life of affluence and spiritual bankruptcy, and united them to the call to extend love, honor, and reverence to God and neighbor. She didn't sit on the sidelines and expound upon holiness, she rolled up her sleeves and practiced it. During her life, deadly disease and plagues were rampant in Rome, but St. Frances of Rome ignored the risks in order to serve the needs of the poor. And in return for the compassion she showed, many who received her care atoned for their sins. 

Saint Frances internalized what Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees. We are not chosen to be holy merely for our own benefit. Rather, the gifts God gives us are for the good of our neighbors. She knew true religion requires sincerity, compassion, and hard work. 

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