To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 2:1-11; Lk 11:42-46
The first of the four woes of the Gospel reading of today, continues the contrast between the inner and outer, but also adds the contrast between the important and insignificant. Jesus criticizes piety that observes external obedience while neglecting justice and the love of God. In the second woe, Jesus emphasizes that true piety does not seek praise from others, and in the third Jesus returns to the contrast between the inner and outer. Since the inner corruption of the Pharisees is not visible, others are defiled by their influence. (Contact with a corpse rendered a person unclean (Lev. 21,1-4.11; Num. 19,11-22). Graves had to be marked, therefore, so that persons would not unwittingly defile themselves by contact with them). The Pharisees are like graves that cannot be seen/are hidden and consequently result in corrupting others.
The fourth woe (11,46) is the first of the three addressed to lawyers. Here the woe is in response to the lawyer’s allegation that in condemning the Pharisees, Jesus is condemning them as well. Jesus responds by pronouncing a woe on them for imposing legal restrictions on people but doing nothing to help them. The law, which was meant to be a pointer and help, has been made into a burden and an end in itself.
There is the danger that when we read these woes, we might think that they apply to Pharisees only. However, they could just as easily apply to anyone today who like the Pharisees focuses on what is not essential and in the process forgets what is really important. When a person makes physical attendance at the sacraments more important than spiritual or internal attendance, he/she is also as guilty. When anyone focuses too much on sin and not enough on love, that person is also as guilty.