“THEY PREACH, BUT DO NOT PRACTICE (Matt 23:4)

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Mal 1:14b – 2:2b, 8-10; Psalm 131:1, 2, 3; 1Thess 2:7-9, 13; Matt 23:1-12

Today, I remember some words that are ascribed to St. Augustine, “For you, I am a priest; with you, I am a Christian. I rejoice at what I am with you, but what I am for you terrifies me.” As I was going through the readings for today’s liturgy, terrible fear enveloped me. I realized once more how delicate is this precious vocation that I embraced. To be frank, I have enjoyed every minute of my priestly life such that I couldn’t have asked for a life outside of the priesthood. But now, I am in deep reflection: Will I still savour the sweetness of the priesthood in the life to come?

My dear friend, pray for your priests, pray for me. Many of us have left the priesthood even while still putting on the priestly robe. We spend most times doing our own personal work instead of the work of God who called us. We have turned the attention of people to ourselves instead of letting them focus on God. We enjoy the good things from the house of God but allow the flock of God to wander around without proper guide. Hence, so much thrives in our land because the priests have lost their prophetic voice in pursuit of ephemerals.

Pray for your priests, pray for me. Ask the Lord, the good shepherd to keep us always on the right path, so that after our ministry here on earth, with you, we shall see God face to face. Amen.

When the people of Israel came back from exile, they began rebuilding the temple and embraced their religion with enthusiasm. But with time, the initial enthusiasm began to dwindle. That was the reason the prophet Malachi came hard on the priests in the first reading of today. He saw the faithlessness and the irreligiousity of the people as a result of the actions and inactions of the priests. And he warned that if they do not change, they shall be cursed! No wonder my Bishop prayed at his Episcopal ordination, “O God, do not allow those who seek you to be brought to dishonour because of me.”

Please do not belittle this request I make of you for prayers. I want my priesthood to be a blessing to me and all those who look up to me. I don’t want to be cursed for not representing Christ well through my priestly ministry. I want to be like St. Paul, who, in the Second Reading, was able to show with his life, what he preached to the people unlike the Pharisees, in the Gospel, who preached the truth but not able to live it.

Finally, as you are praying for me, remember to pray for yourself as well. O yes! Remember that by virtue of your baptism, you belong to the common priesthood of Christ. Therefore, in the same way that I am called to bear witness to Christ with my life, you are equally called. The people that encounter you daily must be able see Christ. Otherwise, you will be among the number that preach but do not practice.

Lord, help me to be your true witness on earth and a candidate for your Kingdom in the world to come. Amen.

Have a grace-filled Sunday. Peace be with you.

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