(Isaiah 1:10,16-20 / Psalm 50:8-9,16-17,21,23 / Matthew 23:1-12)
Most of us get our feelings hurt when others reject us or do not approve of us. Young women especially seem to fall prey to the desire to please everyone and be accepted and well liked. Children want to be popular at school and have lots of friends too. Teenagers go to great lengths with their appearance, clothes and the way they act, in order to fit in with the popular crowd. And when couples start dating they want their girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents to like them and accept them. This is especially true with newly weds. It hurts the whole family if a new son or daughter in law is not well liked or accepted into the family.
Even as adults, we do many things in order to get others to like us and accept us, at work, in our parish, and in the neighborhood or community where we live. We think that people will like us more if we get a college education, have a nice home, a new car, dress well and socialize with the neighbors or other parishioners at church more.
Let’s face it. No one wants other people to disapprove of them. We want to get along with people, have others think highly of us and live a happy, peaceful life. We do whatever it takes to get along, even if we have to say what others want to hear in order to avoid an argument, or cause hard feelings. Or maybe we just don’t address things that people do that are wrong, because it will get them upset with us. It’s easier to just let it slide rather than have to deal with an open confrontation and hurt feelings. We have better things to do than add more negativity to our lives, so we just walk away from potentially negative situations.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in contrast to this attitude though. He spoke God’s truth to the people, regardless as to how they responded to it. The truth poked their conscience and it hurt, so the people were irate and “out to get him”. They were living a happy life doing whatever they pleased and then Jeremiah came along to tell them that they were not pleasing to God. This definitely caused a lot of hard feelings and negativity. But, Jesus told us “woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets”. Lk 6:26
Jesus spoke the truth to the people too, regardless of how they responded to it. Jesus upset the religious leaders of his time to the point they wanted to kill him as well. But, he accepted it, he embraced it, and Jesus Christ is the example we should follow in our lives. It is He that we should look up to, not other people. It matters what the Lord thinks of us, not the people around us, whose emotions fluctuate from moment to moment. We are to speak the truth, because the truth is not based on what other people expect from us, like the two sons in today’s gospel, that wanted to sit at the right an left hand of Jesus in the kingdom of God. He didn’t try to gain their approval, or the approval of the scribes and Pharisees either.
Jesus and Jeremiah both simply spoke the truth to the people of their time and allowed them to deal with their own emotions, even if the negative emotions of the people at that time, led to their own death. The truth is the truth, period.
Christ also taught us in an earlier chapter in the book of Matthew: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Mt 5: 11-12
So, don’t be afraid of other people’s opinion of you! If they get upset at you for telling the truth, standing up for the good, and speaking up against evil, then you are living your life in union with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will be pleasing to the Lord and will be rewarded in our Father’s heavenly kingdom.