Today’s readings sound like a major slap in the face to those that it may apply to. But, there are times in our lives when that is exactly what we need.
In the First Reading, Paul is telling the Thessalonians not to “hang out” with those who are not living out and preaching the Catholic faith. For some of us, that would eliminate many of our friends. Why? It is no secret that over half of Catholics no longer attend Sunday Mass. This makes sense if we understand that less than 50% also do not believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Where has that hunger for the Eucharist gone? To make matters worse, the pandemic has taken many to a place further away from Eucharist, that awesome Gift. We need to pray that everyone will come back after the pandemic guidelines are lifted.
Paul speaks of hypocrisy in his letter to the Thessalonians. It is pretty easy to spot in others, but not so easy to see it in ourselves. I recall my youngest son telling, me a while back that I was a hypocrite. What? Me? Why did he say that? He remembered a time a few years ago when I had made a statement and then recently did the opposite. That was humiliating, but I told him he was correct. Secretly, I wished his memory was not so sharp.
Matthew, in the first line of today’s Gospel speaks of whitewashed tombs. Every Jew would have known what he was referring to. The roadside in Palestine was a common burial place. It would have been lined with tombs. Any Jew that touched a dead body or a tomb would be considered unclean and thus unable to attend the Passover celebration. The roads would have been lined with pilgrims heading to the Passover. Just before the celebration, the tombs would have been whitewashed to help keep the pilgrims from touching them. Jesus used the example of whitewashed tombs to tell the scribes and Pharisees what they were like: bright white and shining on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. They knew exactly what Jesus meant.
Jesus was speaking to the Church hierarchy at that time. Moving forward 2000 years, the scandal in the Church today is hard to bear, yet it gives us an opportunity to reevaluate our own lives. This can be done by taking the 10 Commandments one by one and going through an examination of conscience. There are many guides available to help one do this if necessary. This way of preparing for confession has been taught for decades. If this is your first time doing it, you might struggle. Why? Because you might be faced with those things (sins) that you have not come to grips with for a long time. It’s okay, the Lord is waiting to hear from you. You already know what a freeing experience of this. And if you don’t, you will discover what a loving and forgiving God you have!
After reading those chastising words from Thessalonians and Matthew, the Lord has the antidote to bring us back. He asks two things of us. The first is to love him and the second is to love our neighbor. Loving God means allowing him to love us through the Eucharist, along with praying to him and praising him. Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to experience God. The graces are incredible! Coupled with this is love of neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Anyone that needs help. It seems that the latest generation has heard little of charity and sacrifice in helping their neighbors. You might read Matthew 25 to get an idea of what the Lord expects of us.
May God bless you all!
Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002. He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.