[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10/ Psalm 131/1Thess 2:7-9, 13/ Matthew 23:1-12
Theme: All Honour Belongs to God
Honour and shame are the core value of many societies. Honour is a public claim to worth and public acknowledgment of that claim. Shame is a lack of sensitivity to one’s honour, carelessness in guarding and maintaining it. The very nature of the Priestly ministry demands humility and service. This is because the one in whose ministry we share came to serve, not be served and to give his life as a ransom for many. Thus in the exercise of our ministry, let us not create the impression as if we want to usurp God’s glory. The liturgy for today will remind all humanity especially priests that to God belongs all glory and honour.
As we prepare to celebrate the universal kingship of Jesus, the prophet Malachi in the first reading, sends strong warnings to the priests of God who have become demi-gods in the discharge of their duties, promoting their own ideals and preaching falsehood, all in the name of honour and fame. He says, “I am a great king, says the Lord of host and my name is reverenced among the nations. And now O Priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of Hosts, then I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings…” (Malachi 1:14-2:2).
If God decides to turn the blessing of the Priest into a curse, what will become of that Priest? Not only have the Priests strayed from honouring God, they have caused the flock of God to do the same. That God will make of them a reproach to the very people they minister to cannot be overemphasized.
Today many men and women of God stand accused of this message. We sell the blessings of God for money. We have failed to heed the charge of God that freely we have received and freely we must give. Many men of God are not approachable. They are leaving in luxury at the expense of their flock. They have shown partiality in their dealings with God’s people.
They have shown partiality with their dealings with the rich and poor. They have alienated the poor people and aligned themselves with the rich and have failed to even rebuke the rich for their misdeeds. The prophet will ask, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors” (Malachi 2:10-11)?
St Paul in the second reading presents to us a model of what the Priest of God should be like. The Priest of God must be like a mother, loving and caring for her own children. The Priest of God must be ready and eager to hand over to the flock not only the good news but his whole life as well. Even though it was Paul’s right to depend on the Thessalonians for his needs, he gives us an example of a Priest who must work and provide for his own needs. It is when the Priest of God has done this that the Word of God becomes a living power among God’s people.
In the gospel reading, Jesus challenges the religious leaders of his time not to arrogate to themselves the honour which they do not deserve. He condemns their double standard behavior and urged his followers in the following words, “Do what they tell you because they occupy the chair of Moses but do not do what they do” (Matthew 23:3). Jesus reminds us all that every honour goes with responsibilities. When Jesus cautions his disciples not to allow themselves to be called Rabbi, Teacher or Master, he meant to tell them that it can trigger pride and usurpation of the honour and praise that belongs to God alone as is evident in the life of the Pharisees.
Our duty as leaders of our various Christian Communities is to lead others to Christ and not to ourselves. Jesus admonishes all leaders to adopt a servant leadership; a leadership based on service and humility. This is because in this lies true greatness. The paradox of Jesus’ statement lies in the fact that when we exalt ourselves, we are humbled but when we humble ourselves, we are exalted.
Honour is not self-imposed. It is the daily fruit of humility and service. We are reminded by the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews that “Every high Priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weaknesses… and no one can take this honour upon himself, but takes it only when called by God just as Aaron was” ( Hebrews 5:1-4).
In sum, the Priesthood is a gift. Sometimes, we behave as if it is meritorious. The readings of today should cause all unfaithful ministers to repent. This is because the coming of the universal king is imminent. May Christ be our light, shining in our hearts especially in the hearts of all Priests and God’s ministers. Let us be servants to one another for in this lies our true greatness.
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
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