Synopsis: O T XXXI Sunday Homily on Matthew 23:1-12
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a strong invitation and challenge to render humble, selfless, diligent, committed and loving service to others in the community without expecting honor or rewards. Today’s Gospel is a warning against hypocrisy and status-seeking, given to the early Church and to our own Church communities.
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Malachi condemns the irresponsible, proud and lazy priests of his day. In the second reading, St. Paul presents himself as an ideal example of servant leadership in a serving Christian community. In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against contemporary religious leaders who are 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 politicians. There should be in leaders no double standards. Rather, there should grow a deep sense of equality with, and mutual respect between, leaders and those they rule. Each should seek to serve the other. Service, not status, is the mark of this new community, and true humility is the only position its members should seek.
Life messages: 1) We need to become servant leaders in a serving community: The Church is a servant community in which the hungry are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the Golden Goose Sale homeless to receive shelter; the sick to be cared for; the distressed, consoled; and the oppressed, set free so that they may more fully realize their human potential and more readily enjoy life with God. Hence, the leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed. “The measure of a true Christian is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.”
2) We need to live the Faith we profess. Religious people are all too often like the Pharisees and scribes, laying heavy loads on other people’s shoulders without lifting a finger to help them. Instead of judging the poor, we should be serving them through our efforts for economic justice. Instead of criticizing those of other races, we should be serving them through our efforts for racial justice. Instead of ignoring the homeless, we should be serving them through efforts to supply them with adequate housing. We need to live the Faith we profess. Our Faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Heavenly Father. The only way for us to practice our Faith is to build a human community of love and justice.
3) We need to learn the art of self-criticism and accept the responsibilities which go with our titles. Instead of criticizing others for their failures, let us ask whether we are different from them in discharging our duties in the family and in the parish community. Let us remember that our titles should remind us of our specific responsibilities in society and our obligation to discharge them faithfully.