Receiving God’s Word as It Truly Is and Letting It Work within Us, 21st Wednesday (I), August 30, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
August 30, 2017
1 Thess 2:9-13, Ps 139, Mt 23:27-32

 

To listen to an audio of this homily, please click: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today St. Paul retraces how he sought to treat the new Christians in Thessalonika with parental love. Yesterday he told them “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children” and went on to show how that mother-like affection led him to share with them “not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.” Today he mentions a type of paternal inspiration moving children past their fears and excuses: “We treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.” We can learn so much from each of these images about how to be spiritual mothers and fathers of others and how the Church is both mother and father, giving ourselves in love together with God’s word, much like mothers put their whole lives into their care for their children, and challenging kids to live up to their potential, much like fathers help children leave comfort zones and confront and overcome obstacles.
  • With parental pride, he gives thanks to God for the way that they had received both the Gospel and Paul’s own self-gift as means to walk — behave— in a way consistent with the kingdom to which God calls. “For this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.” They received the Word as a gift from God himself and allowed that word to change their life, to work within, to bear fruit from good soil, to separate their bone from their marrow. The Word of God is meant to impact their life and change it and they were allowing that metanoia, that revolution of the way they live, to happen as a result of the word of God.
  • That was in huge contrast to the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus calls to conversion in today’s Gospel. After the exile, the Scribes studied meticulously every letter of the Mosaic law and Sacred Scripture to prevent a recurrence of the exile due to ignorance and infidelity. The Pharisees were ones whose whole life revolved around putting into practice what the scribes themselves taught. Many scribes were Pharisees and vice versa. But many of them, instead of being set free by the truth of God’s word, allowed it to become a means to enslave them. They started to draw huge human interpretations around God’s word — like hand washing, or the way to live the Sabbath — that began to strain out gnats and swallow camels, that had them ignore the weightier parts of the law for the sake of the less important material. In the 23rd Chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus pronounces seven “woes” to call them to conversion, to allow the word of God to save them and give them life. He knew that their pride in thinking they were experts in the Word of God hardened the ears of their hearts to the conversion the Word made flesh was asking, and so he used brutal images, images that are true. Real love shows occasionally itself in such righteous anger, just like mothers and fathers, teachers and coaches, need to be very stern with those they love and are calling higher and better. He calls them hypocrites — actors — who say they live the word but don’t really. They’re like whitewashed tombs, full of death and filth, rather than God. They mark the tombs of the prophets but were conspiring right then — with archenemies the law Sadducees and Herodians — to execute Jesus, to whom all the prophets pointed. They were pretending to be holy while at the same time plotting to do something that would become the worst sin of all time.
  • It’s important for us to ask ourselves to what extent we receive the Word of God as it really is and allow that word to work in us. Sometimes those who are close to the Word of God, who hear it every day, who get into the routine of good religious habits, can became harder soil, thinking we already “know” what we need, even though Christianity isn’t an intellectual exam but a way of life. The key is always whether we enflesh God’s word, whether we bear fruit from what he has revealed to us. The model for this is our Lady, who heard the Word as a Word to be done, who replied, “let it be done to me according to your word,” who let the Word transform her and treasured and pondered it so much within that she was able to make Hannah’s song and the psalms totally here own in intercalating them in the Magnificat. The Word of God that we listen to is powerful. It created the universe. It calmed stormy seas. It raised the dead, cured lepers, cast out demons. It changes bread and wine into God on the altar. It forgives us even our worst sins and makes formerly whitewashed tombs places of resurrection and life. St. Paul today is praying that we might receive the Word of God today and always as it is and allow that word to do its work within us. This way we will not build monuments to prophets whom we kill through sin, but become those prophets who build their whole life on the rock of Christ and his word!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 THES 2:9-13

You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery.
Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,
we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and so is God,
how devoutly and justly and blamelessly
we behaved toward you believers.
As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children,
exhorting and encouraging you and insisting
that you walk in a manner worthy of the God
who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.
And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,
that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God,
which is now at work in you who believe.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 139:7-8, 9-10, 11-12AB

R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

Gospel
MT 23:27-32

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”