We are currently in the 31st week in ordinary time, Liturgical Year A. The readings this week invite us to render humble, selfless, and loving service to others in our community without expecting honor or reward like the scribes and Pharisees did. The Gospel reading serves as a warning to the early Church and to our own Church communities against hypocrisy and status-seeking.
The first reading prepares us for the full force of Jesus’ warning by showing Malachi unleashing God’s curses on the unfaithful priests of his time. The priests of this period were indifferent to their rituals and their teaching responsibilities, and were often unfair in the judgments that they made about people. Through Malachi, the Lord God thunders, “You have turned aside from the way and have caused many to falter by your instruction. . . . You do not keep my ways.” This statement shows the pain of God. Further, the Lord God is hard on the priests for not teaching His messages and not carrying out His commands. He says to them, “I, therefore have made you contemptible and base before all the people.” Leaders and people with power over and responsibilities to others should ask themselves: “Are we faithful to our responsibilities?”
In the second reading, Paul tries to convince the Thessalonians that the message they received was not just human teaching, but rather, the Word of God, God speaking to them through Paul and other leaders. Paul gives thanks to God for the manifestation of their faith, hope, and love and their reception of the Word of God with joy, even in the midst of affliction. Because of their receptiveness to the Word of God and Paul’s preaching, the Thessalonians and the rest of Paul’s communities experienced Jesus’ love. In this sense, Paul presents himself as an ideal example of servant leadership in serving Christian communities and invites us to model his ways.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against contemporary religious leaders who were more concerned about self-promotion than service to others. Christ-like leadership calls for integrity and honesty from all those in authority, whether priests, parents, teachers or people serving in public offices. These leaders should develop a deep sense of equality and mutual respect for the people they serve, the people under their care. Each should seek to serve others selflessly like Jesus. Service, not status, is the mark of this new community, and true humility is the only position its members should seek.
We are blessed with our faith; the readings remind us that we need to live the Faith that we profess. Some of us are too often like the Pharisees and scribes, laying heavy loads on other people’s shoulders without lifting a finger to help them. We need to rid ourselves of the thought that we are better than others because this attitude is very pharisaical. Instead of judging others we should be serving them like Christ and be a light to others. We need to live the Faith that we profess. Our Faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same loving Father. One of the ways for us to practice our Faith is to build a human community of love, justice, and forgiveness.
It is easy to criticize others and to talk about their faults. Instead of criticizing others for their failures, let us ask whether we are different from them in practicing our faith and discharging our duties in our own families, parish community, etc. Let us remember that our titles should remind us of our specific responsibilities in society and of our obligation towards others.