Please press here to listen to the homily or download
Wednesday – Twenty-first Week – OT2
Readings: 2 Thes 3:6-10, 16-18; Mt 23:27-32.
1/ First Reading: NAB 2 Thessalonians 3:6 We instruct you, brothers, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us. 7 For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, 8 nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. 9 Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. 10 In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. 16 May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 17 This greeting is in my own hand, Paul’s. This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.
2/ Gospel: NAB Matthew 23:27 “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. 28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. 29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ 31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; 32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
I. THEME: Working with a good intention
People can do the same work but with different intentions; and the results mostly depend on their intention. For example, the attending of the Sunday Mass: Some attend it out of their reverence for God; some just want to keep the law so they don’t sin; some go to please others; still some go because there is opportunity for them to wear the newly outfit or to display of their beauty. Only those who attend the Mass out of their reverence for God shall receive His grace which is necessary for their life.
Today readings want to present the examples of those who worked with different intentions. In the first reading, St. Paul advised his faithful to imitate him to live a disciplined life and to work hard for their living; they shouldn’t imitate those who lived undisciplined and lazy. In the Gospel, Jesus displayed sinful intentions of scribes and Pharisees. He accused them as the hypocrites who are “on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”
1/ Reading I: To live a disciplined life
1.1/ The necessity of a disciplined life: To be successful or failed both in material and spiritual life depend upon the disciplined life. Those who are successful are the ones who know how to control themselves in any situation of their life. The disciplined persons never let others nor difficult situations prevent them from doing good works; in opposition, they shall find all possible ways to overcome them. St. Paul is the model of the disciplined person. He knew the bad effects of the undisciplined on his faithful, so he advised them, “We instruct you, brothers, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us. For you know how one must imitate us.”
1.2/ The necessity of hard working: People need to have food so they can live; in order to have food, they must work. The Levites and the priests who work in the temple, have no time to work for their living as lay people, can live by the tithes of others; ten percent from people’s income as the law prescribed. This is just because they also work for people’s spiritual life. It is only unjust if the priests don’t fulfill their priestly duty. St. Paul justified that he has the right to enjoy what is prescribed for the priests; but he tried to work hard to set an exemplar for the faithful. He wrote, “For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.”
He gave them an order, “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” This is just for those who are capable of working. Many lazy people reasoned, “It is better to have food without working” or “have lots of food without working hard is the sign of wisdom.” Some people who aren’t working hard but also use their time to sin, such as: to slander, to interfere in others’ work, to entertain fleshy temptations; as a saint forewarns, “To be idle is the mother of all bad habits.”
1.3/ The hard working people’s reactions: When they see people who don’t work but enjoy many benefits, sometimes even take away all of others’ efforts, they become irritated and angry. Some of the followed reactions may happen:
(1) The normal reaction is to find a way to teach these people a lesson or to display their sin to light. This reaction may cause hardship if others resist and may get unwanted results.
(2) The other reaction is to stop doing good works. This reaction isn’t good because we let others to affect our life.
(3) St. Paul’s reaction: He advised them. If this way isn’t effective, look for peace in God because God is the source of peace. “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” Moreover, we shouldn’t worry about injustice because God shall judge them on the Last Day; no hidden thing shall be passed unaware. Their hypocrites can be hidden from people, but not from God because He can see all of their intentions.
2/ Gospel: Pharisees and scribes live a hypocritical life to deceive others and to hide their sins.
2.1/ A hypocritical life: Jesus accused the Pharisees and the scribes, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within you are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness…You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
– Hypocrisy, “hypokritês” has three meanings: First is the one who answer, or a translator who only knows what both sides want to speak, but not their intentions. Secondly, it is an actor or anyone who has a role in the play. An actor or an actress must express what the play writer wants them to express. The well-known actor must be the one who exactly expresses the role of the person he plays; for examples, he can easily cry while deep down inside he doesn’t want to cry, or laugh while his soul has many things to worry about. Lastly, it is a hypocrite, the one who acts out to hide what he really wants.
– White-painted tombs: To keep people from being unclean, the Israelites paint white all the tombs so people might recognize and avoid them. However, no matter how white are the tombs, they can’t hide what are inside: full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
– The Pharisees and the scribes’ hypocrisy: They wear phylacteries, prayer boxes and long tassels, together with all their pious acts. All these can only deceive those innocent and naïve, not the wise and the experience. They never can deceive God, who fathoms all their intentions and plans.
2.2/ They persecute the prophets: Jesus continues, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.”
Most of God’s prophets were maltreated, persecuted and killed by the Jews. The reasons for these are they obeyed God and said what people didn’t want to hear, or to accuse the king or people’s sins. The Pharisees and the scribes wanted to build or to paint the righteous’ tombs to show that they aren’t like their ancestors. Jesus seems to tell them if they sincerely want that, they should change their attitude and receive prophets. In contrast, they are finding ways to persecute and to seize Jesus, the most important of all prophets.
Today, there are still people like the Pharisees and the scribes. There are some faithful who didn’t visit or care for their parents when they are alive; but when their parents died, they lamented and wailed to show people how much love they have for their parents. They organized a big funeral and built beautiful tombs to hide their ungrateful to their parents. A Vietnamese adage describes these people as follows, “When alive, they don’t feed; when pass away, they offer their funeral oration for flies.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The disciplined life can’t be lacked if we want to be successful in both material and spiritual life.
– As long as we have the capacity to work, we must work for our living and make a contribution to developmental plans of our family and society.
– We must have a good intention in doing works. Remember that we can hide our bad intention from people, but never can hide it from God.