“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.' Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.' You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”
Today and for the following two days, we read of the seven "Woes" that Jesus said against the Pharisees and scribes. Today's Gospel covers the first three.
Jesus first accused them: "You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter." This can be a reference to their rejection of Jesus who was himself the embodiment of the Kingdom, was preaching the Kingdom and who, by his presence, had made the Kingdom accessible to all who came to him. On the other, it can also mean that they made the observance of the Law impossibly difficult by their complex interpretations of what was and was not allowed. Whether we are parents, or teachers, or priests or religious, we can also by our behaviour both block people's access to Jesus and be far from him ourselves also.
Jesus then accused them: "You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves." This refers to them zealously convert Jews who lived elsewhere to believe in Judaism. But they corrupt them with false ideas of what true religion is, causing them to mistake rituals as what really brings about salvation.
Jesus also accused them of teaching people that swearing by the temple or the altar means nothing, but swearing by the gold of the temple and the gift on the altar is obligated. They focused only on material gains. They misunderstood swearing before God is based on people's faith for God. We have to watch out and not to let material gains become a stumbling block to the hearing of the Gospel.