Homilette for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 23:23-26)

Matthew’s gospel shows Jesus beginning his first public discourse with eight beatitudes and his last discourse, recorded in the reading today, with seven woes. The beatitudes, of course, indicate the rewards Jesus’ followers will receive, and the woes, the punishments his enemies will undergo. There are also contrasts among the beatitudes and the woes. Today’s gospel passage relates the fourth and fifth woes which are opposed to the fourth and sixth beatitudes.

Where Jesus considers those hungering and thirsting for righteousness “happy” or “blessed,” he sees those who neglect “judgment and mercy and fidelity” as destined for destruction. The latter are the kind of people who attend to the minutia of the law – “pay(ing) tithes of mint and dill and cumin” -- without keeping its spirit on fairness and compassion.

While the scribes and Pharisees present a pleasing fa├žade – “the outside of cup and dish” -- what lies behind the scene – their “inside” -- is wicked. Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, strive to be “pure of heart” which means to desire inwardly what is worthy of God. It is a life-long struggle, to be sure, but one that promises honest relationships in this world and the beatific vision in eternity.