Walking in Righteousness

Homily for Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Last night, I was talking to a priest friend of mine about the readings for today and he said something to me that has just really had me thinking. He was talking about how he was really intrigued by this interaction between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel. The first line made him pause; it says: “Jesus said.” And then, Jesus asks the Scribes and the Pharisees what their opinion was on this story that He tells. The point that made my friend pause – and it’s the same point that I have been reflecting on since – is the fact that Jesus cares to speak to His people and that is something that should fill us with a great sense of awe. Our Savior seeks to speak to each of us. He desires to be in relationship with us. He desires to know our thoughts on things. The Lord wants us to share what’s on our hearts…but He also wants to share with us what is on His heart.

The reason Jesus wants to share His heart with us is so that we can be drawn ever more deeply into the mystery of salvation, so that we can be brought to a moment of deeper conversion and to grow in the ways of righteousness. We become righteous when we seek to submit ourselves to God’s will and to cooperate with His plan of salvation. That’s exactly what the preaching of John the Baptist was about, to challenge the people of Jerusalem to recognize how they had turned away from God and were no longer participating in that divine plan. Jesus picks up on that and calls the Scribes and the Pharisees out for not walking in the ways of righteousness. He even goes as far as to tell them that tax collectors and prostitutes – the perceived worst of the worst in terms of morality in Jesus’ time – were entering Heaven before the scholars and leaders of the Jewish faith. And so, the preaching of John the Baptist and the words of Jesus are meant to be a call to conversion for them. They’re meant to be a call to conversion for each of us.

The Lord is challenging us with a question, too. He isn’t asking us for our opinion; instead, He is asking us: “are you willing to submit to God’s will and cooperate with His plan of salvation? Are you willing to walk in the ways of righteousness?”

I think all of us here have a desire deep down in our hearts to do just that, but there are times that we also struggle with that desire. It’s difficult for us to say “yes” to the Lord at times, because, let’s face it, sometimes other desires that we have get in the way of our response to God. That’s the very definition of sin. Despite that, the Lord doesn’t stop challenging us and calling us to give Him a more deliberate and complete “yes.” But here’s the thing, “saying ‘yes’ to God often means saying ‘no’ to something else; it involves change.”[1]

The reason tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom of Heaven before the Scribes and Pharisees was because they refused to heed the words of John the Baptist and change their ways. “Their minds were closed. They could not see God’s plan coming together right in front of them in John or in Jesus. They were stuck in their own ways and in their own minds. They could not repent.”[2] Do we want the Lord to say the same of us?

The Lord wants us to be drawn ever more deeply into the mystery of salvation and He desires that we cooperate with that plan more fully. May we ask Him today to continue opening our hearts and minds to His plans. May we not be afraid to open ourselves up to conversion and repentance. Let’s pray that the Lord will give each of us the grace today to conform our wills to His and be able to respond to Him with a more deliberate and complete “yes.”


[1] Carey Boyzuck, “Change Your Mind and Believe” on ePriest for Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent, 2020.

[2] Carey Boyzuck, “Change Your Mind and Believe” on ePriest for Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent, 2020.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, Indialantic.

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