Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.
Blessed are you who revere the Lord,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favoured. (R./)
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who reveres the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life. (R./)
And Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.
The readings offer us two complementary views on human activity. Paul stresses work, the gospel condemns "works." Paul's work that leads to faith had little or nothing to show for itself. Paul thereby was supporting himself and therefore consuming whatever he earned. Only a little was left over for the poor.
Yet Paul's words suggest that the spirit in which he went about earning his living convinced people that his message was to be received "not as a human word, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe." God must be "at work within you" before anyone can believe. Yet here external means help to enable people to recognize God at work. These external means preparing for faith are Paul's daily work.
Somehow or other, people who are willing to be thoroughly human have a better chance to be blessed by God than those who are nervously anxious to always appear sacred. Self-conscious sanctity carries the threat of pride and injustice which is destructive of healthy human relations.
Jesus criticizes the religious leaders for being more preoccupied with appearances, what is on the outside, than with what is within, what Scripture call the heart. Today, even more than in the time of Jesus, appearances, image, has become all important. People who have a certain image receive the most adulation, have the biggest following and, often, get the biggest salaries. We are easily taken in by appearances. Jesus invites us to look at little deeper, which is how God looks. As one of the books of the Jewish Scriptures says, "we look at appearances, God looks at the heart."
The "heart" is the seat of the emotions, the intellect and the will. What matters to God is the heart, how we feel, how we think, how and what we desire. We are to bring our feeling, our thoughts, our desires into line with how God feels, how God thinks, what God desires for us. Our hearts are to reflect, in some way, God's heart, which means Jesus' heart. As Jesus says elsewhere in Matthew's gospel, "Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart." It is the Holy Spirit who comes to us from God and the risen Lord who can mould our hearts into images of the Lord's heart. We pray today that this work of the Spirit will be brought to completion in us