Be True To The Message Of Eternal Life
Readings: 1st: Mal 1, 14-2, 2-10; Ps 130 2nd: 1Thess 2, 7-13, 5-11; Gos: Matt 23, 1-12
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working with the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. He is the Administrator of Parroquia La Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Chancellor of the Diocesis of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the church enjoins us to hold firm to the message of eternal life. This is what safeguards our faith, especially, in these perilous times. Through the message of eternal life, God will continue to strengthen us in our daily struggles.
In our first reading today, through prophet Malachi God warns us (especially priests), about the dangers of straying from the right part. He equally warns us of the danger of misleading and oppressing others in His name: “…And now priests, this is a warning for you…you have strayed from the way, and you have caused many to stumble by your teaching, you have destroyed the covenant of Levi….”
While it is important to note that this message is meant as it were for “priest” and all “pastors of souls,” God is equally speaking to each and every Christian. The reason is quite simple. We are all all priests by virtue of our baptism and so, are all expected to live good lives to the glory of God. Therefore, It is a call to live justly. Most importantly, it is a call to glorify God through our various calls.
In the second reading, with gratitude, Paul recounts how they faithfully transmitted the good news to the church of Thessalonica. They did it with total devotion and dedication: “…We felt so devoted towards you…We were eager to hand over to you, not only the good news, but our whole lives while we were bringing the good news to you.”
Unlike the priests that God warned through prophet Malachi in our first reading, Paul and his companions were faithful pastors. They are role models for all of us pastors of souls. Rather than mislead or exploit the people, they dedicated their entire lives preaching the message of eternal life in both words and actions.
Their efforts were not in vain. God confirmed it in the lives of the Thessalonians. They preached and lived message of eternal life. They brought it with faith, sincerity, honesty and dedication. They reverenced and honored the message themselves. So, it was also received with honor and reverence.
Hence, the Thessalonians did not take the message for granted. Rather, they accepted it with an open heart and mind: “…As soon as you heard the message we brought, you accepted it as God’s message and not something human.” So, this was a cause of joy for Paul and his companions. This is what happens when we faithfully discharge our duties as pastors of souls. We see God’s people flourish like the tree planted by the river side. God blesses us and makes us joyful, through this.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They represent all the bad pastors of souls. That is, all the “men and women of God” of our time, who occupy exalted positions, but show bad examples. They are very eloquent and tall in their preaching, but are dwarfs in their actions. They twist the message of eternal life for their own gain. Thus, they lead many astray. When we live this way, we act like the Pharisees.
Today, Jesus denounces religious show off and bigotry, which is opposed to the message of eternal life. However, His message about calling anyone “Rabbi” or “Father” must not be misunderstood. One must be true to his calling and duty, and not occupy a position just for the pride of being called father, sister, pastor, evangelist, minister etc.
So, what Jesus is denouncing here is earthly pride. He wants us to be true to our Christian calling. It must not make us proud and arrogant. Also, He wants us to be true to the message of eternal life. It must rule our lives, and must not be employed to exploit, oppress, or mislead others. Rather, it must bring them peace and joy, while giving glory to God.
Peace be with you all!