FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10 | Psalm 131:1, 2, 3 | 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13 | Matthew 23:1-12
The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time encourages us to uphold our commitments to God, persist in doing good despite facing criticism, and model ourselves after Jesus as a humble and servant-like teacher.
Ernesto, a farmer, excitedly reported to his wife and family that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. He said, "You know I have suddenly had a feeling that we must dedicate one of the calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes we will sell one and give the proceeds to the Lord’s work." Marita, the farmer’s wife asked him which he was going to dedicate to the Lord. "There is no need to bother about that now," he replied, "we will treat them both in the same way, and when the time comes we will do as I say." In a few months Ernesto entered the kitchen looking very miserable and unhappy. When Marita asked him what was troubling him, he answered, "I have bad news to give you. The Lord’s calf is dead." "But", Marita said, "you had not decided which was to be the Lord’s calf." "Oh yes," Ernesto said; "I had always decided it was to be the white one, and it is the white one that has died. The Lord’s calf is dead."
In this day and age, it is becoming rarer to find a person who always keeps his or her word. In the First Reading, the Prophet Malachi speaks out against the Levite priests for abusing their position of power. They did not keep their promises to God. We may make promises to God about various things. We may, for example, decide to spend a few minutes each day reading the Word of God or attending Holy Mass every Sunday, but then easily slack off and not follow through on our promise. Many people make all kinds of promises to God while they are in distress, but when He comes through for them, and when they are all fine and dandy, they just conveniently forget about the vow they made. These people have no respect for God. It is very important that we acknowledge God's hand in our deliverance. It is very rude to ignore the One Who saved and delivered you. If you made God a promise in exchange for His help, then you must follow through and keep your word to Him. He did what you asked of Him and He expects you to do what you said you would. Some people solve the problem of unfulfilled vows, by never committing to anything. This is not a solution. You need to commit to give to the Lord in as many areas as you can – generously. He is so generous with you and me! You need to decide for yourself what you will give – of your time, your effort, your money – and you need to give it freely and joyfully.
A man and his son took their carabao to the market. Along the way, they encountered different people who criticized their actions. First, a countryman mocked them for walking instead of riding the carabao. So the man put his son on the carabao. Then they passed some men who criticized the boy for riding while his father walked. In response, the man got on the carabao himself. Next, two women shamed the man for making his small son walk. Confused, the man placed his son in front of him on the carabao. As they reached the town, people ridiculed them for overloading the carabao. Feeling embarrassed, the man and boy got off and pondered a solution. Eventually, they tied the carabao's feet to a pole and carried it on their shoulders. Amidst laughter, they reached the market bridge, where the carabao struggled, causing the boy to drop his end. Sadly, the carabao fell into the water and drowned. An old man, who had followed them, remarked, "Please all, and you will please none!"
No matter how hard you try, you can never please everyone. In the Second Reading, we gain insight into St. Paul's relationship with the Church in Thessalonica. Even though Paul had founded this church and possessed rightful authority as an Apostle, certain members accused Paul and his colleagues, Silvanus and Timothy, of preaching for personal financial gain. In defense of their ministry, Paul reminded the Thessalonian Christians that they had not gained financially from their religious work; on the contrary, they had endured significant suffering due to their faithful proclamation of the Good News. They faced persecution in Philippi and conflicts in Thessalonica. Despite these challenges, Paul addressed them with tenderness and love, akin to how one might expect from a caring father. When you engage in acts of kindness today, some people might doubt and criticize your motives, but continue to do good anyway.
After the New York Times featured an article confirming Einstein's theory of relativity, he gained widespread fame as "the famous Dr. Einstein." He began delivering lectures at leading universities to foster greater interest in pure sciences. His dedicated driver, Harry, always accompanied him as Einstein couldn't drive. Harry faithfully attended each lecture, sitting in the back row. One day, after finishing a lecture, Einstein, while getting into his car, heard Harry say, 'Professor Einstein, I've heard your lecture so many times now that I could deliver it perfectly myself if needed!' A few weeks later, as they approached Brown University for a lecture, Einstein fell ill. He asked Harry to impersonate him and deliver the lecture, while he assumed the role of Harry, sitting in the back row. On campus, two graduate students argued over their intelligence, with one boasting he was smarter than Einstein. He planned to ask Einstein a question that even he couldn't answer. During the lecture, Harry delivered it flawlessly. As he descended from the podium, the confident student posed a complex question about the theory of relativity. Quick-thinking Harry replied, 'The answer is quite simple, so simple that I'll let my driver answer it!'
A good teacher can influence a student in profound ways. Think back to a teacher who may have shaped or transformed the direction of your life. Perhaps it was a grade school teacher, a sports coach, a priest, or a mentor whose words and actions served as powerful teaching moments. A teacher’s encouragement to a failing student, or loving discipline to a disobedient child, can inspire and challenge them while setting them on a lifelong path of success. Throughout life we need such teachers who show a better way, a positive path, and the way of wisdom rooted in God’s word to face the challenges and opportunities of each day. But sometimes, the teacher you are following may not be a real person, but an ideology or even a philosophy. If you are not careful, you will end up a student of a teacher who will lead you to your doom. Who is your teacher? The answer may be tricky. You may find the answer by observing yourself closely. The dress you wear may give a clue. If you dress to impress, the market is your teacher and master. When you try to look like a celebrity, you let the celebrity be your teacher. There is a chance that you let money be your master and teacher. It is evident when money is the norm in your choices and decisions. In our Gospel, Jesus was talking to those who were listening to Him seriously, "You have but one teacher." He was referring to himself. You are a Christian when Jesus is chosen as your only teacher and master. If you count Jesus one among many teachers, then Jesus doesn’t count you among His followers. Jesus is the final authority; Jesus is the final point of reference. Every teacher can follow the example of Jesus, the master teacher, as he shows the way of humility and self-sacrificing love. We become the best teachers when we humble ourselves before God and resolve to serve others with our gifts and talents. For as Jesus reminds his disciples, “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.” May we learn to imitate Jesus the teacher by growing in humility and the desire to serve others within the community of the Church.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum