1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
Think of the people in your life -- who knows you the best? You may think of someone who has known you for a long time, who has seen you at your best and your worst, and loves you as you are. It’s likely that they understand what makes you tick and help point out tendencies of yours that you might not be aware of. A relationship like this can be very comforting and can help you grow as a person because at the same time that you can’t fool this person, you can also be honest because you know you are safe with them. While there are people in our lives, such as parents, spouses, siblings, and close friends, who can know us like this, the Scriptures today remind us that God knows us even more completely.
The first reading and the psalm remind us that the Lord sees and knows our hearts. He created us and understands us more fully than we even know ourselves. We can take great comfort in this; we don’t need to hide from Him and we can rely on the Lord’s mercy when others don’t understand us or even when we are struggling to understand our own thoughts and motives. At the same time, though, we can also trust the Lord to convict us of habits or attitudes we need to repent of, just as He called out the Pharisees in the Gospel. Because Jesus did understand the Pharisees’ hearts, He knew that their motives were impure and He saw their blind spots. His words were strong but they were spoken out of love; He was telling them the truth and giving them an opportunity to repent, which is an act of mercy.
The best thing we can do for our relationship with God is to be transparent with Him. He already knows us through and through; we do not need to put up pretenses or try to have the perfect attitude before approaching Him. On the contrary, He wants us to share our whole selves with Him, to be honest with Him and with ourselves. It takes humility to lay everything out before God and to be open to seeing things about ourselves that need changing. But that is how we grow in holiness and we can be confident that at the same time the Lord sees everything, He understands us deeply and loves us completely.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Monica, a holy mother who loved and prayed for her son through all his failures and struggles. She never stopped loving him or gave up hope for his salvation, and her persistence paid off, as he became St. Augustine, one of the Church’s greatest saints. If you are in need of the Lord’s help in any area of your life, or if you are praying for someone who is far away from Him, ask for her intercession today, and then bring it all before the Lord, just as you are. St. Monica, pray for us!