In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, the Pharisees stop Jesus as he is passing through a field with his disciples, who are picking heads of grain. Why are they disobeying the Sabbath law?, they ask Jesus. From this and various passages in the Gospels, we get the picture of the Pharisees always on the lookout, always watchign out of at least the corner of their eyes trying to catch Jesus and his disciples doing something that is contrary to the law.
Not only do we all know people who behave like the Pharisees (think of the people who sit in church ever-ready to spot a liturgical abuse they can report to the bishop), but we all sometimes have the tendency to act in the same way. How many times are our eyes focused, no on the task at hand, but on what someone else is or is not doing that we might be able to criticize? or that might make us look or feel better than those with whom we are comparing ourselves?
Let me be clear – I’m not saying there are not things that need correcting and we do have an obligation of fraternal correction of our brothers and sisters. But, we can get so wrapped up in checking out what the people around us are doing that we lose focus on our own task of discipleship.
The temptation to Phariseeism can be a strong one and we would do well to be mindful lest we find ourselves giving into it.