There is quite a difference in the readings for mass today. The first reading is very upbeat, positive and filled with grace. In fact that is how the reading starts off “Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you.” Then, the second reading starts off “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” These two readings show us that there is a right way to live out our faith and a wrong way.
The people in the church of the Thessalonians in the first reading for mass today give us an example of the right way to live out our Christian faith. This reading is filled with descriptions of the goodness of these early Christians’ lives. These verses in scripture recognize that words alone are not enough, that we must also embrace the words of the gospel in our hearts and live them out in our lives. These verses explain it further: “Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.” The new Christians had an outstanding reputation throughout the region of the country in which they lived, and beyond that area as well. They were known for their hospitality, conversion from worshiping idols and how they embraced their new faith in Jesus Christ, seeking to wholeheartedly serve the Lord by how they lived their lives. Their good reputation proceeded them.
That isn’t the case with the Pharisees and scribes. Their reputation also proceeded them, but it wasn’t a good one. It sounds like they were wrapped up in strict technicalities used to justify their own righteousness, or loopholes to escape accountability for doing wrong. Lawyers in our day and age do the same thing sometimes. Murders can be set free and are never held accountable for their crime because of some minor technicality. Everyone with any common sense knows that it is morally wrong to let a criminal go free and not pay for his crime, because of a minor mistake. The minor mistake does not negate the whole crime, but that is what happens in court sometimes.
It is interesting to note though, that in America before a witness gives testimony in court, they hold a bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There are very few times in our lives that we are asked to swear by anything, but we are asked to do so in a court of law and the court officials ask us to swear by the bible. The reason this is interesting is because atheists in our country have fought to have prayer removed from our schools, for Christmas to be renamed “the holidays”, and nativity sets can not even be put up in many public places any more. They are slowly chipping away at our faith, trying to remove all mention of God in our public lives. There are people in our country who even want to remove God’s name from our money “in God we trust” and yet, we still swear by the bible in a court of law. The truth is the truth, and we all instinctively know the truth. That seems to be what Jesus is saying in the gospel today.
Today, maybe we could give some thought to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in all that we do. For some of us, that might be a little bit hard. We may be accustomed to stretching the truth a little, to suit our needs or telling a white lie to get out of something we don’t want to do. Without even thinking about it, we are not always truthful. Maybe we look at disbelief at the policeman when he pulls us over for speeding and we make up some excuse as to why we shouldn’t be held accountable to the speed limit? Or we don’t want to talk to our long winded relative on the phone so we tell them we are running late for an appointment? Maybe our children ask to borrow money from us and we are tired of them asking for money all the time, so we tell them that just we don’t have any money right now. We make a lot of excuses for things sometimes instead of being truthful, and that really isn’t the right way to live. Perhaps today we could pay a little more attention to how truthful and honest we are in even the small details of our lives. After all, it is the small details, added together that form the real picture of who we are.
Let us work harder to become people of integrity in all that we say, but more importantly, in all that we do.