Sunday, November 5, 2017

Homily for this 31st Sunday in OT

Homily for 31st Sunday Ordinary Time, year A
Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Talk the talk but walk the walk.

We all have heard these expressions before. Maybe we have even experienced instances in our lives where we have heard a great message but the messengers actions let us down. For some reason, politics comes to mind. When these things occur often we just take note but unfortunately they can have real impact in our lives or even hurt our feelings.

As people of faith, do we proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Church in both words and actions? Do we follow the will of the Father?

Jesus sure is giving us a warning today about words and actions. By now, Jesus has probably had it up to here with the Pharisees. In the last few Gospels we have all heard first hand as these religious elites kept trying to trap Jesus with tough questioning. Of course Jesus is incapable of being trapped or tricked and simply frustrated the Pharisees while remaining always committed to saying and doing that which is the will of His Father.

In this Gospel dialogue we are confronted with that all too often controversial teaching about call no man on earth your father and call no one teacher too. I refer to this as confrontational, not because Jesus’ teachings, or the writings of St. Matthew for that matter, are controversial. No, the controversy is understanding the proper and accurate interpretation of this Scripture. Unfortunately those who always seek to attack or weaken the Church like to mix it up with us over this Scripture for, after all, we call our Priests father. How can we miss this? How can we be so wrong? The answer is, of course, we don’t and were not. It is always important to understand the context of what Jesus says and how it is recorded in Scripture. And we must always use the whole of Scripture to help us understand more fully the teachings of the Church.

As Jesus concludes his dialogue about these Pharisees widening their phylacteries and lengthening their tassels he knows, better than anyone, that there is no sincerity in their words. Yet they want the people hearing these words to adhere to them strictly. Furthermore, because of their lofty preaching, they insist on titles and honors and, you could almost say praise and worship. So Jesus, using hyperbole, refers to the titles rabbi, teacher and father and reminds them, and us, that there is only one ultimate teacher and father: His heavenly Father and Our Father.

No where in his teaching did Jesus demand the practice of calling our biological fathers father. Can you imagine any scenario where a little boy or girl could not call their father those words which identify who their father is to them? No more dad, or daddy or father. Not what Jesus had in mind!

But what about our faith tradition? Don’t we call our priests father? Indeed we do. Over time we have come to recognize that our priests, and of course those who pastor our parishes, are the spiritual father of many; the spiritual family. The concept of being referred to as a spiritual father is addressed and used numerous times in the New Testament by St. Paul. Selected personally by God to carry the message of salvation to the Gentiles and writing under the power of the Holy Spirit, can we just simply say St. Paul got it wrong? No, of course not! St. Paul knew fully what Jesus taught and what His words meant and so should we.

Reserving all that He is and all that He shared, Jesus always points us to the Father. The Father is the one true Father, God, the first person of the Holy Trinity. The Father who Jesus refers to is the same Father, whom Jesus came to earth to demonstrate fully the depths of a Father’s love.

We may have many people in our lives who we meet who teach us and are fathers to us; even our beloved Priests. But we know, from Jesus’ teachings that there is only one Father we worship, one Father we follow; God the Father!

In the week ahead, can we do one thing for our fathers in honor of God the Father? For our own dads, or the dads in our families, can we offer special prayers in our daily prayer life this week? Prayers that all fathers may be sustained in the love of the Father and conduct themselves as good fathers with God the Father as the ultimate example.

If our fathers are no longer with us, how long since we have thought of or mentioned them in prayer. And perhaps this week we can share stories with others, maybe those in our own families that never met these fathers that have gone on before us of their example in word and deed.

Finally, for our priests, can we too pray for them by name? Each man who serves as a Priest has his own personal life to live and that too comes with all the good and bad that our personal lives have. Pray for them this week by name. And for those so inclined, have you ever called and offered to do something special for your parish Priest? This could be something as simple as a home cooked meal or an offer to assist with an unmet need and will go a long way to being present to our spiritual fathers.

So we are called to say what we mean and mean what we say as we talk the talk and walk the walk. And always remember, we follow the example of Jesus; say AND do the will of the Father!

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