Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time (August 28, 2017): Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Chúa Nhật, 27-08-2017 | 16:22:41

Today’s Readings:

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8b-10
Ps 149:1b-6a and 9b
Matthew 23:13-22

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

Good News Reflection: What makes a good deed sacred?

Which is more important: The service you do for the kingdom of God or the love that motivates it? Service without love is merely a duty fulfilled, the minimum requirement of obedience. Love is what makes any good deed a sacred deed.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shows us the importance of examining our lives beneath its surface. What’s the real motive behind anything and everything we do? Does our religiousness go very deep? Is the practice of our faith anything more than legalistic obedience? Service that’s not motivated by love — love for God and for all whom he loves (which is everyone!) — can do more harm than good, as we see happening to the Pharisees whom Jesus scolded.

Perhaps we’re using our “faith” to manipulate others into doing what we want them to do. For example, this is often the secret motive (often unconsciously) of parents who warn their kids that if they don’t go to Mass, something hellish will befall them. That approach can cause long-term damage to their faith. They’re more likely to go to Mass (and actually participate it in it) if they go because they believe God loves them and they feel loved by the priest and the other people they encounter in church.

Threats and warnings about God’s punishment can seem helpful, but ultimately they drive people away from true faith, because true faith is based on God’s merciful love. Rather than being nags and doomsayers, we need to be models of deep devotion, and we need to spend countless hours in prayer for their spiritual growth and protection, which is a sacrifice of great love.

Our first reading today emphasizes that we prove our faith by laboring in love. Anyone can do good works, even atheists. Anyone can claim to be doing good deeds for God, even those who are far from God. Good deeds are sacred — Godly — only when they are works of love done in cooperation with God’s divine plans of love.

Do you sense my love for you in these Good News Reflections? As St. Paul said to the Thessalonians, so I also say to you: The truth of the Gospel is not proved by how well I write these reflections, but by the power in which you receive them and live out their messages in the Holy Spirit and with complete conviction. I am very pleased with your love for others and your conviction to grow in holiness, and I pray for you in my heart continually.

Today’s Prayer:

My Lord, help me to be upright in heart and honest in words and actions. Thank You for correcting me when I walk away from You. Amen.

© 2017 by Terry A. Modica

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