Whitewashed Tombs (Week XXI, Wednesday, OT I)
If today were not the feast of St. Bartholomew, the 21st Week of Wednesday, OT Year 1 would feature the following readings:
- Reading I: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 139
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 23:27-32
In 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13, Paul reminds the Thessalonians how he worked among them, treating them as a "father" deals with his children. He also points to the Thessalonians’ faith as one of the things he is grateful for, since they received "his word not as words of men but what it truly is, the Word of God." Here is one of those instances where "Word of God" refers to the apostolic preaching.
In the selection from Matthew 23, the "Woes" that Jesus pronounces over the Pharisees is continued. Jesus calls them "whitewashed tombs" — clean on the outside but when touched makes one unclean. The "inside-outside" theme of the denunciations are continued here: the Pharisees look "clean" on the outside, but inside they are filled with "hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Jesus calls to their attention the tombs they build for prophets and holy men. His words anticipate what will happen to him later on when one of the Pharisees — Joseph of Arimathea — will lay his body in a new tomb. The words "finish off the work your fathers began" points to his own death on the cross — the climax of a series of acts reaching back to the first prophets killed by "the forefathers" in disobedience to God’s Word.
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