1 Thes 2:9-13; Ps 139:7-12; Mt 23:27-32
Saint Augustine was baptized at the age of 33; he was ordained priest at 36 and became a bishop at 41. Even after his conversion, his searching continued. The LORD is the unsearchable one in the sense that no matter how we search we cannot fully find because the mystery of God is still mystery, even after we find him or he finds us. What matters most is that God finds us, not that we find God. Saint Augustine confesses both his sin and his sanctity in his book, Confessions. He comes to a moment of great conversion in his writings when he states, “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late have I loved you!” What does he mean by “too late?” Certainly, Saint Augustine does not mean that it was too late for him to be converted or grow in holiness that somehow God had given up on him. No, what he means is that the only regret that a saint has is that conversion and holiness did not come earlier. The members of AA often remind each other that truth is God’s greatest ally. This morsel of wisdom is even more accurate within our faith tradition. The Eternal Son of the Eternal Father identifies himself in Saint John’s Gospel as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The truth of who we are and whose we are is the most profound truth we can know. It is also the most challenging and life-changing truth we can know. Today’s Responsorial Psalm invites us to ponder this truth. The ever searching and vigilant caring of the LORD, who searches and knows us, can feel a bit overwhelming. When the LORD gets so involved in our lives, we sometimes respond with hesitancy. Sometimes we even seek to distance ourselves from such intimate probing by the fire of God’s love and truth. We want to go somewhere away from his spirit. We want to flee from his fiery presence. Yet, there is no place to go and no place to hide. Even if we go up to the heavens, the LORD is there. Even if we sink into the nether world, the LORD is there. Even if we took on the wings of the dawn and flew from sunrise to sunset, to the farthest limits of the sea, even there the LORD’s hand would guide us. With his own right hand the LORD would hold us fast. He would walk with us through every valley of the shadow of death. He would never leave us alone. Even if we cry out to the darkness-“hide me;” the darkness is not dark for the LORD, and the night shines just like the day. Such is the persistent and penetrating power of the truth that sets us free. Saint Paul preaches just such a truth in today’s first reading. The Lord Jesus freely proclaims just such a truth to his public opponents who claim to love the prophets and the holy ones, yet do everything they can to discredit the Lord Jesus, who is The Prophet and The Holy One. Sometimes our polite external behavior is just the opposite of our hostile interior attitude. Sometimes we live double lives, and this kind of division is destructive of our integrity, and our inner peace.
The Apostle Paul gives thanks and praise to God in today’s second reading. He is joyous in the conversion of his children in the Body of Christ. These conversions are in response to the grace of God in the life, ministry and preaching of the Apostle. His witness is devout, just and blameless. This integrity is seen, by the LORD, and by those whom he loves and serves in his ministry. Saint Paul, like a loving father, exhorts his children and encourages them to walk in the Way of the LORD, living in a manner worth of the God who calls them into his Kingdom and glory. Saint Paul works day and night as a tent maker so as not to burden any of his converts. The truth of his preaching and the truth of his life-style is a convincing message. What he lives in his daily life is an honest reflection of the faith he cherishes in his heart. His actions are not so loud that his words cannot be heard. His actions are not just noise that blocks out his message. Finally, Saint Paul delights that his congregation has received his witness and his teaching as they are: the Word of God and not just the word of man. Indeed, it is this Word of God that is now at work in all who believe and strive to embody the truth they have received.
The Lord Jesus, who is himself the Truth, speaks truth to his opponents, the scribes and the Pharisees. He speaks this challenging truth in painful words. He cries out WOE to these men, and he calls them hypocrites. Such honesty is disarming. Such honesty loves. The Lord Jesus wants his brothers to face the truth and to be liberated from their self-deception and hypocrisy. These religious leaders cannot lead anyone to union with the Truth if they continue to deny the truth. The Lord Jesus does not hold back. His love for these his brothers demands such honesty. He provides a visual metaphor to make his challenge clear. In your hypocrisy, you are like whitewashed tombs that look good and even show up at night so that no one will even accidentally step on the grave and thus incur uncleanness and separation from the community. You are dangerous because you look good on the outside, but your hearts are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Indeed, even an unintentional encounter with you putrefies the soul. The Lord Jesus continues to criticize using another tomb metaphor. In their boasting, the scribes and Pharisees would publicly disassociate themselves from those who killed the prophets and the holy ones. However, the Lord Jesus sees what such bravado attempts to hide. He sees the truth of their true desire to rid the nation of this dangerous holy man and threatening prophet. Indeed, they are the children of murders, and they will fill up what their ancestors measured out. The Lord Jesus does not fear the truth of their threat. The Lord Jesus lets them know that he knows. He knows the truth, and he is free. His freedom from the fear of death is the gift he offers all who are self-deceived and try to deceive others.