Pay attention. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t ignore the forest for the trees. Don’t sweat the small stuff. However you want to say it, our Liturgy of the Word today is asking us, as it often, rightly, does, to get things right and stay in the game.
In our first reading today, Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians not to freak out if they hear about the second coming of Christ. Rather, they should be in the moment and live as they have been taught and formed in the Gospel that Saint Paul preached to them. They need to pay attention to what is going on in front of them, to be attentive to what the Gospel calls them to do, and trust that if the Lord comes in glory, he will find them doing his will and gather them to himself. That’s the best possible way to enter eternity! No need to scramble around in fear of what is to come. When it comes, it comes, so let us pray that on that great day, God meets us doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Jesus today scolds the scribes and Pharisees, as he often does, about paying more attention to the minute bits of the law than they do to really doing God’s will. They are so caught up in the ritual cleansing of bowls and cups that they cannot attend to the purification of their own hearts. And that, Jesus tells them, is a complete disaster. Their blindness will eventually leave them out of salvation’s reach. And we can be that way too sometimes, can’t we? Sometimes we get so caught up on the little things that we miss what is truly important, and that can be a disaster.
And so we too are called today to pay attention, to keep our eye on the ball. We need to be attentive to the needs of those around us, to reach out to the oppressed and forgotten, to always be mindful of the poor, to stand up for human life, to feed the hungry and take care of the sick – in short, we are to live the Gospel faithfully. We shouldn’t be caught up in details, nor should we be overly concerned about when the Lord will return. We can’t have our head in the clouds nor in the sand. We must be attentive to what’s in front of us, the opportunity to live the Gospel faithfully.