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We are living in a society which is driven by appearance and image, where aesthetics take precedence over ethics and morality.
The white petals of a flower like the daisy are famous for their supposed ability to represent the sincerity of true love. The green sepals of the calyx, for their part, form a little bowl which serves to protect these petals.
So what are the "tepals" then? Well, they are actually the combination of these two floral structures. In the case of some flowers, like this martagon lily (lilium martagon) which I photographed in the Pyrenees, the petals of the corolla are fused together with the sepals of the calyx in a single piece, known as the "tepal".
In mountain regions like this, the tepals arch upwards to form a unique and very striking crown, from which hang large stamens and an orange coloured pistil. Although this is a very beautiful flower, it presents, from a human point of view, a very serious problem.
Its tepals give off an intense and very unpleasant smell, which attracts pollen-spreading flies. They are very beautiful flowers, but they stink to high heaven, as they are designed to attract all kinds of flying diptera. In other words, they are a far cry from the fragrant rose.
This observation reminds me of the fact that, deep down, all human beings are a bit like that, like wild flowers. We attach greater importance to physical beauty, to outward appearances, than to the ethical content of our actions.
When Jesus called the Pharisees "whited sepulchres", that was precisely what he was referring to. On the outside, they did their utmost to look spotless, while underneath this façade there was nothing but rottenness and foul smells.
We are living in a society which is driven by appearance and image, where aesthetics take precedence over ethics and morality. In my view, this is the result of a growing conviction that there is no life beyond the life that we live from day to day and, therefore, that we are ultimately accountable to no one.
However, Jesus' harsh words of judgement against the religious establishment of his time (Matt. 23:23), also hang over the head of this sceptical generation. God is still waiting for us on the other side of this life's final frontier, and will require of us this precious, blood-stained visa, whose name is Jesus Christ.