28 August 2013. Wednesday of the Twenty First Week
1 Th 2:9ff. The gospel is received not as mere opinion but as God’s word.
Matt 23:27ff. Woe to hypocrites, splendid outside but nasty inside.
First Reading: 1 Th 2:9-13
You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.
Gospel: Matthew 23:27-32
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.
Work and Faith as Complementary
The readings offer us two complementary views on human activity. Paul stresses ordinary, daily work while the gospel condemns “works”. Paul’s church-work was unpaid, so he needed to was support himself by his handiwork as a tentmaker. Clearly he spent most of whatever he earned, and only a little was left over to share with the poor. Yet he knows that his religious message was to be received not as just one man’s opinion, “but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe.” God must be “at work within you” before anyone can believe. Yet here external means help to enable people to recognize God at work. These external means preparing for faith are Paul’s daily work.
People who are willing to be thoroughly human have a better chance of being used by God than those who are always trying to seem sacred and different. Conscious sanctity carries the threat of pride and false superiority, which is destructive of healthy human relations.