Today’s gospel has Jesus taking the Scribes and Pharisees to task for forgetting what is really holy and treating things as sacred while ignoring God who is holiness itself. Apparently, they thought that swearing an oath by the gold of the temple was more binding than an oath simply sworn on the temple itself: but, Jesus asks, isn’t the temple what makes the gold holy? And they confused swearing an oath by the altar and by the gift on the altar. They had forgotten that the altar is what makes the gift holy. But even more than that, they had been so caught up in details, that they forgot that God is holy, and makes holy whatever can be called holy.
Now, Jesus isn’t saying that people should disobey the first and third commandments, using God’s name as an assurance of an oath. Swearing by the name of God isn’t to be taken lightly. But what he is saying is that the Scribes and Pharisees needed to straighten out their flawed notion of holiness. God is holy; and he alone makes holiness.
So today might be a call for us to take a moral inventory of our own notion of holiness. What have we been putting before God? What do we hold sacred? Do we have idolatry in our life? Do we sometimes forget that, as we say in the Gloria: “you alone are the holy one, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the most high…”?