1Thessalonians 1:2-5, 8-10; Matthew 23:13-22
The Gospel of Matthew and the reading to the Thessalonians seem to be juxtaposed for the point of comparing those who are living a holy life and those who are pretending to. We learn from the readings that the Pharisees are those who say the right things according to God’s word, but fail to act in accordance with it (Matthew 23: 3-4), while the Thessalonians endured suffering and opposition when first following Christ, but did not depart in words and actions from all that Paul had taught them about following Christ. The Thessalonians’ faith became known everywhere because of their “modeling”, their faithful actions.
Today’s Gospel reminds me of a conversation I had only a few days ago with two friends about our church and about some of the people in our church. As I was venting about the people and things in our Church that cause me heartache and confusion, I became kind of embarrassed and ashamed. I realized that I was sounding self-righteous and arrogant- that only my views are right and holy (the exact characteristics in others that I was lamenting about a few seconds before!). When I voiced this, my wise friend said, “It is ok to vent about things that trouble you, but avoid publicly slaying people whom you don’t agree with. When we do that, we display the very qualities that we detest in others.” Unfortunately, as I sat to pray about and write this reflection, I initially thought of writing about those who seem to be like the Pharisees to me- those to whom, in my mind, God surely says, “Woe!”- those who were the topic of my and my friends’ conversation. Instead, I am reminded of my wise friend’s words and that I am always in danger of being just like the Pharisees myself in that my words and actions do not always match. I take seriously the words of Christ to “love one another” and sometimes I do this well, but I also am quick to judge my brothers and sisters whose opinions differ from my own, and “make them twice as much a son of hell” as I am.
Instead I want to emulate the Thessalonians whose “work is produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I want to welcome the message with joy each time I hear it and use it toward the above means instead of using it to find fault with my brothers and sisters. If I am preoccupied with making sure my work is the fruit of my faith and love for others and for Christ, I will not have time worry about the words and deeds of others. And, Christ fully expects that, if we take his greatest commandment seriously, we will love everyone, even those we are tempted to judge and slander.
By Lory Spanbauer