Memorial of Saint Monica

2Thes1:1-5,11,12; Ps 96:1-5; Mt 23:13-22
“Awesome is The LORD, beyond all gods!”

“Actions speak louder than words”; this is the conventional wisdom. In our day, especially as an election approaches, we also hear it said that “words are cheap”. The LORD has consistently communicated through powerful speech and marvelous deeds. Both word and deed are consistent and constant in the human-divine relationship. Today’s responsorial psalm summons all who hear to proclaim the marvelous deeds of our Saving God to all the nations. Why? Haven’t they their own gods to deal with? Sure they have many gods, but all the gods of the nations are things of nought. Since we are what we worship, it is necessary and fitting that we do not worship nothing, unless we want to become nothing. It is the LORD who commands his people to proclaim, sing, and tell of God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations. Those in covenant, in an intimate marriage bond with the LORD, cannot hold back the praise, delight, and witness of his wondrous deeds. Indeed, our deepest desire is to proclaim God’s marvelous deeds so that all the nations can have eyes of faith to behold his saving love. Indeed, our greatest longing is to sing a new song to the LORD so that all the nations can hear us and join in our jubilation. Indeed, before we can do either, proclaim or sing, we must delight in our inmost being in the God who delights in us. For the LORD who made the heavens has revealed himself as the God Who Saves. Indeed, he saves us from our self-destructive sin and self-loathing vice. He saves us, not just with his word of Guidance in the Law, or his word or Prophecy through history, or his word of Wisdom from ages past. He saves us with the awesome deeds of the Incarnation and the Cross. He saves us by the marvelous deeds of his Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Savior of everyone, everywhere in creation and for all of time, unto the ages of ages!

It is a beautiful thing for Saint Paul to see his spiritual children growing in grace and in faith. The believers in the city of Thessalonica are flourishing in faith and abounding in love. So Saint Paul boasts of such maturation when he speaks to the other churches of God. In this second letter to his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica, the Apostle praises these disciples for endurance in persecutions and faithfulness in afflictions. Their witness to the Lord Jesus is not without suffering. In our own day being a follower of Christ is often ridiculed and condemned as being narrow and exclusive. When we stand up for the truth of the gospel, we are often politically incorrect. Saint Paul seems to suggest that endurance of such public ridicule is evidence of the just judgment of God, so that we, like our ancestors in the faith, may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God for which we are suffering. If it is not difficult to defend the faith, perhaps we are not really bold in our witness, or perhaps we do not encounter the opposition that some of our brothers and sisters encounter day in and day out. Even if we do not have to suffer public humiliation for our faith, we do need to pray for our fellow believers and ourselves so that we may be made worth of the calling of Christ and that the Lord Jesus will powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith. Indeed, Saint Paul teaches us how to pray for missionaries in hostile lands and here in our neighborhoods so that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in us and we in him, in accord with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus is speaking to both the crowds and to his disciples. He is warning them about hypocrites and blind fools. He is warning them about the scribes and Pharisees who reject the Lord Jesus and his announcement of the coming Kingdom of God. These religious leaders are dangerous because they lock up heaven, and they seek converts to make them twice as blind as themselves. They are models of the kind of missionary that we should not become. They are not blessed; they are woeful. These men are blind because they are hypocrites, and they are hypocrites because they are blind. Blindness and hypocrisy are mutually supportive. If you cannot see how your behavior contradicts your professed beliefs, you will most likely continue to be a hypocrite. If you continue to claim to know yourself and others but do nothing about what you know, you will most likely continue to avoid the truth about yourself and others. As some wise person once said, most people with whom we live know more about us than we do ourselves, and they would be glad to share their insights. However, we tend to spend a life time avoiding such a mirror experience, and never ask someone what they think of us. The blind fools of the time of the Lord Jesus taught that if you swear by the gold of the temple or by the value of the sacrifice upon the altar then you are obligated. They paid more attention to the financial benefits of religion than to the heart of the human-divine relationship. What matters to the Lord Jesus and to his disciples in every generation is that we come to know the Lord Jesus and His Father by the power and person of the Holy Spirit.