30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 5, 2017 [Matthew 23:1-12]
“For they preach but they do not practice. (Mat 23:3)”
Reading this Sunday’s Gospel, I feel that Jesus is reprimanding His priests and ministers for “preaching and yet not practicing.” Unfortunately, many of us are failing in this matter. We preach forgiveness, but some priests are having prolonged quarrels with other co-priests and some of their parishioners. We teach kindness and friendship of God, yet some of us appear to be aloof and snobbish. We proclaim justice, but sometimes we fail to be just to the simple people working in the parish or convent.
I myself are struggling to walk the talk. Often I speak or write about asking people to do more active parts in the Church or to engage in promoting justice and peace, but I myself find it difficult to follow those invitations. I used to be a member of KADAUPAN in our formation house. It is an apostolic group of the Dominican student-brothers that was inspired by the example of St. Martin de Porres who gave his life for the poor. One of our basic tasks is to welcome and help the indigents coming to our Church. Sometimes, we give money, but often we provide food, water and clothing. I have to admit that every time an indigent comes, I struggle to go out and meet them because I prefer to stay in the library and read books.
However, despite this inconsistency, I do believe that Jesus is merciful to us, His preachers, because He understands that despite our holy intentions, we keep falling due to our human weaknesses. Even St. Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, understood our struggles with our weaknesses, “For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. (Gal 5:17)”
While it is true that Lord Jesus will be very merciful to those who struggle to practice their preaching, it is also true that He will not tolerate if preaching is just for show off or for personal gains. That is the context of today’s Gospel. Jesus criticizes some Pharisees and scribes who preach the Law and teach its elaborate applications to show off their wisdom, and thus, gain respect and honor. It was their goal to earn the honorific title, “rabbi” or “father”, and to be treated as VIP in the Jewish societies. They do not serve God, but they manipulate the Law of God to serve their interest. This is unacceptable because it is a grave abuse against their sacred vocation to preach and serve the God of Israel.
The same message goes for us, the preachers and servers of the Word of God. Is there any hidden and selfish intention in our services and ministry of the Word? Is it to gain fame and pleasure? Is it to hoard riches and to have a more comfortable life? Are we making our sacred vocation to preach a career of achievements and glory? In a letter, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan had a strong point to the Filipino priests, “It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man…That is our only duty—to be Jesus and to give Jesus who alone is our treasure.”
Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP