Theme: CHURCH AND COMMUNITY LEADERS MUST PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH AND THEY MUST PREACH THE GOOD NEWS
Malachi 1:14-2:2. 8-10; Psalm 130; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9. 13 Matthew 23:1-12
1. Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that Church and community leaders must practice what they preach and they must preach the Good News!
The gospel today tells us that the scribes and Pharisees, that is, the Jewish religious leaders, do not practice what they preach. They interpret the Law rigorously for the people to keep, so much so that the Law becomes a burden for the people, but they will not keep the Law themselves.
All they do is for show, like wearing broader phylacteries (boxes containing scripture verses) on their foreheads and arms, and longer tassels on their clothes; choosing the places of honor at banquets and synagogues; and being greeted as “Rabbi”! Thus we read in the gospel today:
“…. They do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honor at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.” (Mt 23:3-7; SM)
2. The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. Again, the first reading tells us that the priests, that is, the Jewish religious leaders, were not teaching the Law of God. (CCB) Instead their teachings were misleading the people. As a result their blessings for the people will become curses for the people. The priests will become curses for the people of God! Thus we read in the first reading:
“And now, priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, if you do not find it in your heart to glorify my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send the curse on you and curse your very blessing. You have strayed from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your teaching. You have destroyed the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.” (Ma 2: 2. 8; SM)
3. Incidentally, the responsorial psalm tells us that a good Church and community leader is one who humbly trusts in God. The responsorial psalm is a song of “Humble Trust in God”. (CSB; NJB) The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza (v. 1) tells us that the psalmist does not trust in himself. The second stanza (v. 2) tells us that like a child, the psalmist trust in God. The third stanza (v. 3) tells us that the psalmist invites the whole community to trust in God. Thus the response of the responsorial psalm which is adapted from the second stanza:
“Keep my soul in peace before you, O Lord.”
The single most important virtue of a Church and community leader is to trust in God!
4. Incidentally, the second reading today tells us that St. Paul was a good Church and community leader! The second reading tells us that:
(i) St. Paul preached the Good News.
(ii) St. Paul loved the Thessalonians and gave his life for them.
(iii) St. Paul was self-supporting and self-financing. He did not ask for their financial support! (HCSB; NJBC)
Thus we read in the second reading:
“Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well. Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.” (1 Th 2: 7-9; SM)
5. Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us Church and community leaders to practice what we preach. The Holy Spirit will help us preach the Good News. And the Holy Spirit will help us trust in God! Again, a happy Sunday and a happy week to all of you!