The fault of the Pharisees was their belief that they owned their religion, that they owned God’s law and revelation, and so that they owned God. They were so sure of their religion, that when God’s own Son rebuked them, they were outraged and murdered Him.
The Pharisees’ problem was that they wanted God, but they wanted God to be theirs. Cain wanted God to be pleased with his sacrifice, but in his way, and so rather than improve his sacrifice, he murdered his brother, so that no sacrifice was better than his. He wanted God’s approval by having a monopoly over religion. The prophets were likewise murdered, because they were close to God, and their murderers wished to be. The tenants murdered the heir of the vineyard to become the heir and keep the vineyard.
It is easy to see God’s heirs, His messengers, and reject them as not from Him, because they are poor, weak, and harmless, and they simply do not resemble us. They are unpredictable, and do not follow the manual we have written for “How to obey God”. From the perspective of our religion they are the infidels and heretics.
Are Catholics pharisaical? After all, we believe in an authoritative Church, established by Jesus in the Holy Spirit to speak God’s word to the world. We believe the Church teaches infallibly on matters of faith and morals. Is this owning God’s revelation, and owning God Himself?
No. The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ, and belongs to him through and through. Jesus himself said that the authority of the Pharisees was legitimate (Mt 23:2-3), so that was not their problem.
The trouble comes, when we consider God to be ours more than we are God’s. This is not natural to Catholicism in the slightest. The authority of the Church is because she is Christ’s spouse and mystical body: because God owns her, and uses her, and loves her. Never disobey the servant of God. The Church only teaches what she has received from Christ and the apostles, and is always subject to God’s word.
That’s not to say no Catholics commit the fault of the Pharisees. If only. Some may become so attached to certain common Catholic opinions or tendencies (rather than Church doctrines) or liturgical practices, that they refuse to listen to God, whether He speaks by the magisterium of the Church or in the cry of the oppressed. There are some today, who are so committed to being Catholic, they believe themselves more Catholic than the successor of Peter; just as two millenia ago, some Jews were so committed, they believed they were more Jewish than the Messiah.
To reverse the accusation so common against Catholics, is sola scriptura pharisaical? In itself, no. But have you never seen a protestant with an interpretation, arguing with all sorts of interpretive tools that all Christians ought to believe something they believe (often that’s convenient for them and not really in the text), and that to do otherwise is rejecting God’s word? Within the Catholic Church, we must simply receive what God has given us, but without the Church, we must ourselves formulate God’s word from the books he left us. With sola scriptura, we are left to build a religion for ourselves, judging all previous attempts by our own. Such a task definitely leaves us open to creating and owning our own religion, and so our own god.
We all must be wary, so that in all our seeking after God, we never consider Him, the Supreme Being, as our possession. We must never make ourselves the criterion of the true religion. We must always listen to God’s voice, wherever He chooses to speak, and exclude no one from the possibility of being God’s servant for this moment. We must always hold firm to the faith we have received, from the Church, from the fathers, from the apostles, from Christ, from God.
God bless you, today and forever