The Responsorial Psalm calls us to trust that our efforts for God will not go unrewarded: “Lord, you give back
to everyone according to his works” (Psalm 62). Jesus promised that our reward will include seeing (in heaven , at least) the fruits of our labors: “I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Have hope!
When Paul reaffirms, in Romans 2: 1-11 that God “will repay everyone according to his works,” he begins by warning the legalists who were judging others for not observing rules. Only God can judge, and when we do judge — ourselves as well as others — we tend to underestimate God’s “priceless kindness, forbearance and patience.” It is the awareness of God’s kindness that “would lead [us] to repentance” — and make us less ready to condemn others. But we “stop short.” We don’t use our knowledge of God’s mind and heart. This is unfaithful stewardship.
Even when he condemns, Paul’s bottom line is positive: “There will be… glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good.” We need to focus on that, look forward to it and draw courage from it.
In his lifetime, the people Jesus had the most trouble with were the Pharisees and “scholars of the law.” In Luke 11: 42-46 he criticized the law-addicts so severely that they said, “You are insulting us.” But the second-best encouragement we can give people is to point out what they are doing wrong! (The best is to show them where they are right).
What Jesus shows us here is the vicious destructiveness of a religion focused on law-observance. He condemns the Pharisees (in every age) because they focus on keeping rules without reflecting on the mind and heart of God that calls them beyond rules — and beyond anything that can be made specific in a rule — to right “judgment and the love of God.” He condemns the priests and “promoters of the law” who “impose on people burdens hard to bear” without “lifting a finger to ease them.”
If they were faithful stewards they would use what God has revealed of his mind and heart to interpret, apply and temper laws to fit the needs and weaknesses of people. They would consider the circumstances in which people find themselves and treat them with compassion.
To know the problem is to be pointed toward a solution. It is the responsibility of every baptized “steward of Christ” to help guide the Church into the way of love. To do this, all must first strive to learn the heart of Christ in prayer.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. See beyond law to love, and give hope.