Harsh words, but for a good reason

Homily for the readings for August 25, Wednesday of the XXI week in OT, year II

“Shunning those who are disorderly”, working in “toil and drudgery”, “whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth”… today’s readings can sound a bit harsh.

It isn’t easy for us to hear this kind of language during Mass. Perhaps deep down we’d prefer to hear only the more affirming parts of the Scriptures. However, we have to hear the whole message. Just like any parents who use a harsh tone to admonish their children when they are putting themselves and others in danger, the stern warnings and reprimands that come from Christ and the apostles are always oriented towards the good of the people to whom they were preaching.

The Pharisees were steeped in hypocrisy and self-righteousness and had come to instrumentalize the things of God for their own advancement. They had lost their respect and reverence for God – to the point where some rejected Christ even after seeing his miracles. Consequently, Jesus had to use unusually strong words in an attempt to wake them up to their plight. We know that this tactic did in fact have partial success, because the New Testament says that some became his followers. Nonetheless, others just became more entrenched in their sin and played an important role in having Jesus put to death.

In the first reading, St Paul targets a different audience. Some of the early Christians assumed that the Lord’s second coming was imminent and concluded that there was therefore no need to work. They gave in to laziness and abdicated their responsibilities, living off the community without contributing anything. On the contrary, Paul had taught them that “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” He offers himself as a positive example: the Gospel made him work harder than ever. He realized he needed to do all he could to evangelize and do good for others in whatever time he had.

In the Church today, we all eat; God feeds us with His grace in many ways, forgiving us in Confession and nourishing us with His very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity at Mass. We all must also be sure we are working for that heavenly food. The readings today should encourage all of us to work sincerely and unpretentiously to spread the Gospel, with reverence and love for the mysteries of God which fill our lives as Christians. We do this in our own way according to our abilities, by our charitable works, and our personal testimony of faith in words and deeds.

Thus we become worthy of the blessing in today’s responsorial psalm: “Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.”


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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