Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
There’s something almost unfair about comparing the first reading with the Gospel today. Paul gives us a vision where we are adopted by God as His true children, forgiveness of our sins, and “the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us.” Jesus shows us the way of the scribes and Pharisees, where they stand on their own traditions, are guilty of the blood of so many innocents, and have prevented any true knowledge. C.S. Lewis once observed that humans are “half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us,” and we see that today. Jesus preaches to the scribes and Pharisees in order to shake them out of their old ways, and they just buckle down and resist Jesus all the more. They could have the joy that Paul promises them, but they stick with the misery that Jesus points out they have. They were proud of what they had built, and weren’t going to destroy it.
Paul’s offer, while wonderful, is also very humbling. If God adopts us, our glory is His doing. If we continue on, the glory is ours. So long as the tradition is our own, we can point to the past and say “yes, there were some bad things, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs!” Especially in America, with the ideal of the self-made person, this is appealing. What you are isn’t perfect, but it is your own doing. But if God adopts us, we know we can’t take credit–it will then be God who makes us what we are, and not ourselves. But what is true of the Pharisees is true of us–what we have done with ourselves thus far isn’t all that great. We must decide what will make us what we are: our old ways, which bring ignorance and death, or God’s adoption, which brings wisdom and grace.