THEME: PREACH AND PRACTISE GOD’S WORD
READINGS: Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10/ 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9,13/ Matthew 23:1-12
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today, we (especially, priests and other Christian ministers) are reminded to listen to God (cf. Mal. 2:1-2), preach His Word (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7-8) and practise it (cf. Matt. 23:4; 1 Thess. 2:9).
Listen to God
A messenger or a spokesperson must listen to and get the intended message of the sender/master, so as to faithfully deliver it. Similarly, we have to listen to God and get His Word in order to faithfully preach it. Otherwise, we will be preaching our own messages. Hence, in the first reading, the prophet Malachi warned the priests of his time that God was displeased with them as they did not listen to him (cf. Mal. 2:1-2).
In contrast to those priests, St. Paul, who wrote the second reading – namely, the first Letter to the Thessalonians – listened to God. Specifically, on his way to Damascus when he had the life-changing encounter with the risen Christ, St. Paul listened to the Lord (cf. Acts 9:1-30). Before he encountered Christ, St. Paul wrongly thought that his mission of persecuting Christians was from God. This should teach us that there are times we think we have received God’s message, when actually we are listening to either our own selfish agenda or to the evil one.
So, how can we truly listen to God’s Word? Firstly, by reading Scriptures, Secondly, by following the longstanding and time-tested interpretations or teachings of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Thirdly, by being attentive to God’s Spirit in prayer and testing what we hear with Scriptures and the Church’s teachings.
Preach God’s Word
While the priests in the time of Malachi taught their own ways (cf. Mal. 2:8-9), St. Paul preached God’s Word or the Gospel of God (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7-8). Today, on the airwaves, TVs, social media, etc. there are many preachers, who like the priests of old, are teaching their own ways. Yet they are very appealing to people. Let us beware of these preachers, so that they do not lead us astray. Prosperity preaching, teachings about certain rituals borrowed from non-Christian Religions, personality cult, and the like are certainly not the Gospel of God.
On the other hand, let us, like St. Paul, preach the true Word of God. The core of God’s Word is eternal salvation in Christ crucified and risen, righteousness through faith, and charity.
Practise God’s Word
On the one hand, Christ observed that the Scribes and Pharisees, though they tried to teach the Law of Moses, did not practise it (cf. Matt. 23:4). On the other hand, St. Paul and his colleagues backed their preaching with exemplary actions (cf. 1 Thess. 2:9). Therefore, let us strive, like St. Paul, to practise what we preach. Practising what we preach has, at least, the double effect of: (a) giving credence to the message we preach and (b) sustaining our grace of salvation.
- Credence to the Message: Since actions speak louder than words, the message we preach makes a greater impact on our audience if we practise it. Thus, the message preached by St. Paul was well received by the Thessalonians: ‘We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers’ (1 Thess. 2:13).
Like St. Paul, even in out time many priests and other Christian ministers who are doers of God’s Word make positive impact on their ‘flock’, even when they are not gifted preachers, e.g., the late Fr. Martin Wels, SVD, who was once the Parish Priest of Christ the King Parish, Cantonments (Accra).
- Sustaining the grace of salvation: St. Paul was rightly concerned that there is the possibility of labouring to preach to save other souls, while losing one’s own soul in the process. Consequently, he resolved, with the help of God’s grace to discipline himself lest he became a cast out: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! … but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified’ (1 Cor. 9:16, 27). Thanks to God’s grace, the success of St. Paul in practising what he taught could be seen from the fact that he confidently told the Corinthians: ‘Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ’ (1 Cor. 11:1).
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to truly listen to God’s Word, faithfully preach it, and always practise it; and that in doing so, we will always make greater impact on souls and, ultimately, be eternally rewarded by the Lord. Amen!
By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis