Sealed Off From Life
Monday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 22, 2016
Year II: 2Thessalonians 1:1-12; Psalm 96:1-5; Matthew 23:13-22
The Responsorial calls us to share and celebrate what God is doing in the Church: “Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
2Thessalonians 1:1-12 shows Paul and his missionary companions thanking God and rejoicing with the Christians of Thessalonica because their “faith is growing so wonderfully” and “the love that you have for one another never stops increasing.” These were signs that grace — the divine life of God — was at work in them and the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. It was encouraging to the missionaries and to all the churches who heard of it, and Paul prayed it would encourage the Thessalonians as well. They needed it to help them remain firm “under all the persecutions and troubles” they had to bear.
Sharing and celebrating the work of God in their midst was an important element in the life of the early Church (Acts 14:27; 15:3-4, 7-8, 12). Most of the Christians rejoiced in what God was doing (Acts 11:2, 18). But some did not (Acts 15:5). These were the “Pharisee party” or “judaizers”—Christians Paul called “the circumcision faction” (Galatians 2:12; Ephesians 2:11)—who insisted that Gentile converts should be required to observe the laws, customs and observances that were part of the Jewish culture they themselves had grown up in. Their resistance to change kept them from accepting the invitation: “Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
Jesus encountered the same kind of opposition from the same kind of people. In Matthew 23:13-22 he blasts them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.” They preferred exclusivity over inclusivity on any terms but their own.
So much space is given to talking about the Pharisees in the Gospels and writings of the Apostles that we can’t believe they were only a problem in Jesus’ time or in Paul’s. The “Pharisee party” will be active in the Church until Jesus comes again! We should study their profile.
• more concern for “law and order” than for the evidence of the Spirit at work in people’s hearts;
• more focus on “correct” words and gestures than on their meaning and intelligibility to others;
• a “watchdog” attitude toward others' ministry, looking only for errors, like those who tried to “trap” Jesus “in what he said” (Mark 12:13; Luke 20:20).
• a zeal to ban from ministry or the sacraments people who do not meet a select and narrow set of criteria for orthodoxy and orthopraxis;
• an insistence, usually among the “uneducated educated,” that they and their party alone are “faithful to the magisterium” and correct interpreters of the laws of the Church;
• a leaning toward the “legalism, clericalism and triumphalism” rejected during the first session of Vatican II;
• an inability to “Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.” Pharisees are not exuberant in praising God or (usually) enthusiastic about welcoming foreigners into their” church or “their” country.
This is a partial “profile of a Pharisee.” We need to use it to check our own attitudes and values against this most vicious virus in the Church.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Look for the Spirit and rejoice when you find it.