Today’s readings, and I mean all of them, are about our spousal relationship with God. They are plainly and blatantly about developing a personal loving relationship with God, including how to develop it, maintain it, fix it and the consequences of destroying it.
The 1st reading from the prophet Ezekial reminds us that relationship building takes and demands sacrificing. All true love demands sacrifice and it may seem “unfair” that you are doing ALL the sacrificing and the other person is not. Remember our “feelings” are not necessarily the truth, but our interpretation of the truth. When we are focused on self, we are not self-giving for the sake of the other, but for the sake of a reward for ourselves. St Paul describes the true self-giving love of Jesus in his Letter to the Philippians.
The 2nd reading from St. Paul to the Philippians is one of the earliest Christological treatises recorded. It describes Jesus’ complete self-giving and self-emptying love for the Father and for us. We are to follow in Christ’s humble footsteps, not with control or more self-reliance but with His Divine grace. When we are focused on self and are self-absorbed in our own little world we will never be truly fulfilled. As Pope St. John Paul II tells us in his theological treatise The Theology of the Body: only by completely giving oneself will mankind truly find oneself. Poverty of spirit allows us the humility to open ourselves to our loving Father, who has loved us “from old,” as Psalm 25 tells us. If we believe in the trap Satan has set for us, we will fall to the temptation that material and earthly things will fulfill us. If this happens, it can cause “neediness” in our lives. This will cause a lack of fulfillment and grasping at others to use them. This is what the tax collectors and prostitute were doing until they met one of God’s prophets and he introduced them to something and someone better.
In today’s Gospel from St Matthew, we see that part of a loving relationship is to sacrifice one’s will to do the will on the one we love. It certainly does not mean doing with shallow words and false promises but truly living it! Tax collectors and prostitutes who were using and grasping at others and not being nourished in a real loving relationship were confronted with their own sin (1st reading) and with the self-emptying, self-giving love (2nd reading) of God’s prophet. St John the Baptist introduced them to the healing love and mercy of God and the need to repent of their sins should flow from our love for Him. They were repenting and Jesus was lauding their response to His Divine loving invitation, which is “from old.” He is fulfilling His covenant with them and is inviting us all to reciprocate and respond with love. Love demands and begets are response of love. Jesus is stern with the arrogant, proud and conceited with merciful to those are humble and repentant. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
by Fr. Tom DeSimone