Immersed in Christ: August 24, 2020
MONDAY of the TWENTY-FIRST WEEK in Ordinary Time
Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
(Responsorial: Psalm 96)
A psychological “growth game” is to have a group decide on something they want a person sent out of the room to do on return. When the one who is “it” comes back, the group tries to get the person to do what was decided, just by calling out “yes” or “no” in response to any blind action in the right or wrong direction. Experience shows that the person succeeds faster if guided only by “yes” rather than only by “no,” but succeeds fastest if guided by both.
Today’s readings are a “yes” and “no” for ministry. 2Thessalonians 1:1-12, is a “yes.” “Paul, Silvanus and Timothy” are praising the ministry of the local church “because your faith flourishes and your mutual love increases—so much so that in the churches of God we can boast of your constancy and faith in persecution and trial.” The writers are saying, “yes, yes.”
We need to affirm one another for every good thing we see happening. Too often ministers, both laity and clergy, hear only complaints about what people perceive as bad. The “no’s” are helpful for guidance, but “yeses” more so. And best is a combination of both. Begin by saying “yes” every time you can find or make an opportunity to do so, because that is what is most lacking and most needed.
In Matthew 23:13-22 Jesus takes his raging criticism of the ministry of the “scribes and Pharisees” to a deeper level. Last Friday he focused on dress, special seating at banquets and in church, honorary titles, and anything else that makes us look important. Today he “goes postal” over what keeps people from the “kingdom of heaven” or drives them away. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees,” he says: “Hypocrites, spawn of hell, snakes, brood of vipers, blind guides, blind fools, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness like whitewashed tombs that are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth, offspring of those who murdered the prophets, how can you escape being sentenced to hell?”
Jesus was talking to the recognized ministers and most respected people in the church of his time, the “assembly of Israel.” He was yelling, “No! No!”1
Sometimes you have to. These false ministers were “locking people out of the kingdom of heaven,” stopping them from going in. When anyone believed them, they made the new convert “twice as much a child of hell as themselves.” They were reversing priorities, focusing on what is done and forgetting what (or Who) gives it meaning and value. Against this we all have to shout, “No!”
Initiative: Affirm all who are trying. But don’t be silent about abuses.
1 The Septuagint bible used the Greek ekklesia (our Latin word for church) for the kahal of Israel, the religious assembly of the Jews. See Deuteronomy 3:31; Joshua 8:35. “Church” (kirk, Kirche) is from the Greek kyriakon, “the Lord’s house” (John McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible).