27Aug 27 August. Monday, Week 21

1st Reading: 2 Thessalonians (1:1-5, 11-12)

By their faith and love, the name of Jesus Christ is glorified

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial (Ps 96)

R./: Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the nations

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Sing to the Lord; bless his name. (R./)

Proclaim his help day after day.
Tell among the nations his glory;
his marvellous deeds among all peoples. (R./)

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
all the gods of the nations are nothing,
but the Lord made the heavens. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (23:13-22)

Jesus condemns the blind guides for their legalistic distinctions

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.


Genuineness versus Hypocrisy

The Thessalonians’ lifestyle reflected their genuine faith; the blind guides in the gospel degrade religion by legalistic hairsplitting. Compared to the Scribes and Pharisees, the Thessalonians had only elementary training in the Christian faith. The fact that they so misunderstood Paul’s words about the Lord’s second coming shows that they had gone no further than the basics of the faith. (This problem shows up again in next week’s readings). We read in Acts 17:1-15 about some problems that surfaced at Thessalonica during Paul’s first visit there.

While the Scribes and Pharisees quoted Scripture much more eloquently, the Thessalonians were proving their faith more effectively. No one proves faith by eloquent words appealing to the mind or even by miracles seen by the eye. Even the Egyptian magicians could match Moses’ actions, and the devil can quote Scripture for his purpose. Faith is proved by the fruits and manifestations of the spirit. Its authentic language is through acts of love and fidelity: By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one for another (John 13:35).

It was in this spirit that Paul came to Thessalonica, preaching the gospel “not merely in words” but out of complete conviction. In the same spirit the church he founded there lived the faith so vibrantly that they became an example for Christians in other places. Faith was much more than a recital of past events, for it looked to the future, awaiting the messianic kingdom. This expectation should not make us overlook the basic needs of our neighbour. Rather, it prompts us to “labour in love.” The first reading joins the two ideas clearly: as faith grows so mutual love increases, and results in a spirit of “constancy.”

Jesus scorns the religion of the Scribes and Pharisees. If he says that their actions are “few,” he means acts worthy of imitation. Their religious practices were to enhance their reputation; converts were trophies to be displayed. Their refined legalism could justify doing what the law explicitly prohibits. His words in today’s Gospel are so severe as to shock us. We need some of his later words to put them within a perspective of love and compassion, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, murderer of prophets and stoner of those who were sent to you. How I have yearned to gather your children, as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused me.” (Mt 23:38)


Not putting obstacles in God’s way

Jesus was very critical of those who were an obstacle to other people coming to believe in him. He was critical of his own disciples for trying to prevent children drawing near to him, in spite of the wishes of the children’s parents to the contrary. He was critical of those who tried to prevent blind Bartimaeus from making contact with him. Rather than shutting up the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, Jesus wants his followers to open up the kingdom of heaven to others. We are meant to lead each others to the Lord, to reveal the Lord to each other, and support one another on our journey towards the kingdom of heaven.

There are various individuals in the gospels who brought others to Jesus and who can be an inspiration to us. We only have to think of John the Baptist whose life mission was to lead people to Jesus and in that way to open up the kingdom of heaven to others. Saint Paul was very aware of his calling to lead others to the Lord. In today’s 1st reading he reminds the church in Thessalonica of “the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction.” We all need the support of each other’s faith, each other’s lived witness, as we journey on our pilgrim way through life. [MH]

(Saint Monica, widow)

Monica (331-387) was a 4th-century Christian from Hippo near Carthage (modern Tunisia) and the mother of Saint Augustine. She is honoured for her Christian virtues, her patience towards her not-always-faithful husband, and her prayerful dedication to the conversion of her son, who later in his Confessions wrote extensively in praise of her. Monica followed Augustine to Italy where she found Saint Ambrose in Milan and through him ultimately had the joy of seeing her wayward son convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance. She died at Ostia, on her way back to Africa.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    I was at home on holiday from the junior seminary, aged 13. My father was in hospital, my mother out at work. We four children were home. A knock came to the front door and there stood the curate, a middle aged man in long black mack and black hat and solemn face. Told that our parents were not in, he took the occasion standing there to rebuke me for not going to daily mass. If you want to be a priest you should be at daily mass. I did not answer back but inside I was fuming. I never forgot it.

    That man was probably as much a victim of severe religion as he was a perpetrator of it. He did not look happy to me. A religion that is all duty and perfect practice is the high road to misery. It locks everyone out of heaven. No one is getting in. No wonder Jesus spoke so strongly against the controllers of his day. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.

    Those people never went away. They are always around. The religion of love is often turned into a religion of binding laws. May our communities of faith bear witness every day to the love and support that we all need on our journey through life.