Homily for 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time – Abbot's Homily
First Reading Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
A great King am I, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
They preach but they do not practice! Always we need to be self-reflective enough to understand whether we are doing this ourselves. Jesus is really tough on those who tell others what to do while they themselves are not doing it. This is a fairly human failing. Often when we someone criticizing another person, we recognize in them the same defect that they are criticizing. How difficult it is to say that! It is not so much that this is always the case, but it is the case enough of the time that we should become self-reflective and self-aware so that we don’t do the same thing.
Generally Jesus is fairly meek and mild, even when he is stating truths that others may not want to hear. But in this section of the Gospel of Matthew, he is fierce. He is totally clear that all of us should follow certain norms in our lives and thus we may have to do what others tell us, even if the others are not doing it.
The challenge of true spirituality is to serve others without even noticing it. Jesus keeps telling us that if we want to be great, then we must serve everyone else almost as if we were slaves. We must also pay no attention to our service but simply serve.
The Prophet Malachi today tells the priests of his time that they are not keeping the ways of God and are partial in their decisions and are not interested in serving God or the people. It should touch our own hearts when we hear the Prophet say: Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?
Mistreating one another is being unfaithful to God’s covenant.
In the First Letter to the Thessalonians, we are given the example of Saint Paul to follow. Paul worked very hard to earn his own income so that no one could criticize him as a burden on the society, one who only preaches to make his own living. Instead Paul works to gain his own sustenance so that all can see that he preaches God and God’s love for us without any money being involved.
This is the ideal for all of us as Christians. We know that we should give alms to the poor and help those who have little or nothing. On the other hand, when we proclaim our faith, we should never be seeking income from that activity!
How do I live? For God and others, as a servant?