All three of the readings for the day, responsorial psalm included, confront the hypocritical worshiper. Of course the danger in labeling anyone a hypocrite is it might come back to haunt the person who uses the taunt first. All of us are sinners and, at some time or another, fail to live up to our own standards, let alone those of God.
The first reading from the Prophet Amos reminds us of the social justice themes that permeate the prophets. Each of the prophets confronted those who claim the benefits of the Sinai Covenant without living up to the demands. Amos rails against those who would take advantage of the poor and who treat them as little more than commodities on the market. Lately, Pope Francis has taken up a similar type of condemnation, constantly calling us to reform our economic systems to include more people when distributing the world’s goods.
The responsorial psalm takes up the same theme and reminds us that we cannot offer burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord and then disregard the commandments of the covenant when we leave the Temple. What the psalm says to the children of Israel, it also says to us. Our conduct outside of Church is just as important, perhaps moreso, than our conduct within our places of worship.
Jesus echoes these considerations in the Gospel reading from St. Matthew today. It is not enough to “say” that we want to follow Jesus. To borrow a phrase from the biographer of St. Francis of Assisi, idle “hearers” of the Word are no more justified than those who have heard and chosen to disobey. Hearing the Word of God carries with it the moral imperative to let it act as leaven in our lives, moving us to conversion of our way of life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator