31st Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A—2017
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.
GOSPEL Matthew 23:1-12
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.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
How do we treat other people in our lives? What do we think about immigrants? What about the people whom we don’t like? Do we ever think about all of these people in terms of what Jesus has taught us? Do we think about these people in terms of what our Catholic Church teaches us?
The first reading today is from the Book of the Prophet Malachi. What wonderful images he uses in his writings! Today, however, he is very strong: “If you don’t listen to me, I will make your life awful!” This is often how God acts in our lives. Our lives become so awful that finally we think of the Lord and wonder what He wants of us and if we are being faithful. Malachi asks us “Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?” This is a message for all of us, even today. Do we keep the covenant of the Lord? Are we faithful to the teachings of Scripture and of the Church? If we are not faithful, why??
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians. One important point in this reading is this: “In receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God.” This is so important for each of us to understand! We speak in human words and yet we can receive the word of God. This is particularly true when we read the human words of the Scripture and by faith believe that God is revealing Himself. Today many people no longer believe that Scripture is God’s revelation. We Catholics believe with our whole being that the Scriptures are the Revelation of God.
Yet it is important to understand how these Scriptures are God’s Revelation. We are not literalists in the sense that we believe that every word is a revelation. Rather, we embrace a theory of revelation which tells us that God is present and speaking to us in His Scriptures. To understand the Scriptures we must understand the people who wrote them, the times in which they were written, the history of these writings and so forth. But that never takes away from the reality that we believe that in hearing these words, in reading these words, we are encountering the Lord God revealing Himself to us.
The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Here we encounter this teaching: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We should always keep this teaching in our hearts and in our minds. We must seek to serve one another, not dominate one another. We should seek to proclaim this word of God in the way we live and relate to one another. The more humble we become, the possible it is for God’s word and God’s presence to be known by others. Jesus gives us the example of those who try to follow the Law but only put burdens on others. It is clear that our challenge is not to judge others nor to tell others what to do. Our challenge is to live the word of God in such a way that others are drawn to God.
Your brother in the Lord,