The Thirtieth-first Sunday
in Ordinary Time
November 5, 2017
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In today’s readings, there are strong rebukes to priests. This Sunday, we are under “attack” by the word of God. However, we know “God corrects those he loves” (Heb 12:6).In the first reading, we heard: “And now,  priests, this commandment is for you: if you do not listen, if you do not take it to heart, giving honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts I will send a curse upon you” (Mal 2:1–2).

In the Gospel, Jesus says: “They preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. […] They love places of honor” (Mt 23:3–6).

There is the risk of our becoming managers of an organization and preachers of ourselves. There is the risk of clericalism, of understanding our priesthood as a task and not as belonging to Christ. Instead of being men of God, we can be employees of religion. This is very sad!

In October 2011, Benedict XVI had a meeting with representatives of religious institutions, a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world. At that meeting, the Pope said: “These people [the agnostics] are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practiced. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.”

Pope Benedict said that there was a need for the purification of faith so that God becomes accessible.

Today’s word of God calls for the purification of what it means to be a priest.

The first reading says that we need to be men of God. We need to listen to God speaking, we need to pray, to make room for the presence of God in our lives, to give him glory.

However, that is not enough! Jesus says in the Gospel that we need to be human: “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:4).

We need to be sensitive and respect the “heavy burdens” that people carry, as Saint Paul says in the second reading: “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us” (1 Thes 2:7–8).

As Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the priest who inspired the founding of my order, said: “To be good priests, you first of all have to be men, to feel what men feel. Live the truth of your humanity. Cry because you need to cry—or you are afraid, because the problem is difficult and you feel the inadequacy of your strength. Be human […].”

Today’s readings are an invitation to us priests for conversion. However, what can be said for priests can also apply to all people of God. We all need such conversion.

We ask Our Lady to obtain for us the grace to live our vocations with more truth.  Amen.

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