This morning, Jesus continues to speak of the danger of hypocrisy, in line with the Gospel readings of the past few days. However, this time He is speaking not to the Pharisees and scribes, but to His own disciples, so He takes a different approach. Before, His tone was harsh, trying to awaken the consciences of the proud and hypocritical religious leaders. Now, addressing people who are much more open to His message, He speaks more as a teacher and friend.
First, He points out that hypocrisy is ultimately futile. We can hide things from many people for a long time, but eventually the truth will come out – if not in this life, then on judgment day, before God, the angels, and all humankind. God already knows everything we think and do, and He’s the one whose opinion we should be worried about, because He is the one who “has the power to cast into” Hell if we do not live up to what He asks of us. On that account, Jesus says we should fear God. Often the first step to overcoming sin is a healthy “servile fear” of God’s punishment.
However, God does not want us to follow His will as a last resort to avoid condemnation, which explains why Jesus suddenly seems to change tack. He points out that God’s knowledge of us is a protective, loving knowledge. He knows every hair on our head, and every thought and desire of our heart, but not the way a predator examines every movement of his prey. Rather, God knows us through and through like a master craftsman knows every detail of his own handiwork, or like a shepherd knows his sheep and calls them by name. We are of great value in God’s eyes. We should remember always that He is with us, and we should be on our best behavior before Him, not so much out of fear of punishment, but out of fear of disappointing our loving Father and losing the gift of His presence. This is true “fear of the Lord.”
This is also why we should not hesitate to be honest with ourselves and with God. He already knows our failings and our good deeds, our sinful desires and our good intentions. As the psalm says, we should have no guile or deceit in our hearts, but rather acknowledge our sins before the Lord. When we turn to Him in faith and honesty to ask forgiveness, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation, our sins are taken away and we become righteous and blessed.
Let us thank God today for His great love in which He knows us and wants to draw us to Himself. Let us approach Him with faith and trust, to receive the gift of justification, so we can be rejoice and be glad in the Lord.