21st Week, Tuesday, Aug 25

2 Thess 2:1-3, 14-17 / Matthew 23:23-26
Don’t be misled by false prophets!

The Evanston Review for April 8, 1982, carried a full-page ad. The ad’s headline read, “A Warning from God.” The subhead read, “In 1982 Russia will invade Israel in fulfillment of the biblical prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39.” The ad went on to say, “Jesus is coming soon . . . the hour is late . . . the end is near. . . Come into the Ark of safety which is Jesus Christ.” With covid 19 around …..

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in today’s reading have just as much relevance today as they did for the Thessalonians. We too are besieged on all sides by false prophets who claim to have special insight into the meaning of Scripture concerning the end of the world.
First Reading
The Thessalonian preoccupation with the end of the world is a mood with which we can easily identify. There is a great deal of speculation in our time about the emerging signs of the final scenario. Religious bookstores are filled with publications on the topic. The second-coming scare among these early Christians was triggered by some kind of oracular utterance, rumor or fake letter alleged to be from Paul. It has been re­marked that perhaps Paul's earlier discussion about the sudden return of the Lord was misinterpreted to mean an immediate return. The resultant anxiety had disconcerting spiritual and social effects among the members of the community. It is this anxiety that Paul addresses. In a section omitted from today's reading, he describes an extended set of events that will occur before the return of the Lord in order to calm fears of a quick end as well as to show that a great deal of Christian missionary work has yet to come. The Church cannot simply fold its hands and wait for the cosmic finale. Paul advises the Christians to hold to the traditions they have received from him. As theologi­cal and cultural patterns change, it is important that we have a firm grasp on the meaning of our tradition as a secure base upon which to anchor our individual and parish lives. Without such an anchor in the tradition (as opposed to the conventions of the Church), we can be victimized by passing theological excitements.

Paul is aware that his Thessalonians are in danger of becoming an end-of-the-world sect, something we understand easily in the light of the many similar sects appearing among us today. Paul invites them to look serenely at the traditions of the early Church about the end of the world which Paul had brought to them. Jesus comes not to end the world but to bring us another world of justice and mercy.
To what extent do we allow ourselves to be agitated by religious panic peddlers? Jesus said, “No one knows . . . when that day and hour will come . . . ; the Father alone knows.” Matthew 24:36

From the Gospel Reading
If it is clear that we cannot short-circuit our duty to seek justice in the world by waiting for the Lord's return, it is equally clear that we cannot truncate our struggle for holiness by observance of ritual gesture alone. The holiness to which Jesus invites us requires the conforming of our minds and hearts to God. The Pharisaic vice is a preoccupation with the minutiae of external observance in the belief that what we can see is more important or equivalent to the part of us which we cannot see. The Lord reminds us that there is no shortcut to sanctity.

There is always the danger that religions turn into a kind of ritualism that imposes practices of little meaning as if they were the saving factors. Ritualism and rubricism is still raising its ugly head even after Vatican II. How ridiculous, almost superstitious! Equally ridiculous because it is empty, is a religion that professes to have faith but minimizes or shuns religious practices. Be sure that with this attitude quite rampant in our time, true faith disappears.
When it comes to observing religious duties, we like things that are straight-forward. We like to know when are the days of obligation, when are the days of fasting and what to eat and not to eat and how much or how little can we eat.

These religious observations are important as an expression of our faith, and we should know if we had done our religious duties that is required of us.

What is also important are religious duties that cannot be measured or that cannot be spelt out straight-forward.

And these are what Jesus pointed out in today's gospel passage - justice, mercy and good faith. And that is when being a disciple of Jesus gets rather difficult. Because there is no measure for justice when it is understood as a loving tolerance to those who have done us wrong. There is no measure for mercy when it is understood as an act of kindness to those who make mistakes.
And there is no measure for faithfulness when it comes to keeping our word and loyalty to others. Where the letter of the law end, the spirit of discipleship begins.

Let us observe what the Church teaches and yet may we also have the spirit of discipleship - justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Let us pray: Truthful, authentic, genuine God,
you are the truth in its fullness. Immerse us in your truth,
that we may emerge as truthful persons who do not bother about outward appearances but live in the likeness of Jesus Christ, your Son. Thus, make it possible for us to live in communion with one another in mutual trust, one in his Spirit, today and every day and forever. In Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. God bless.