Once upon a time, Mrs. Adams was driving her child Jenny to school when her phone rang, she picks and tells the person calling that she is at home down with a fever and that she would not be coming to work. Next day, Jenny accompanied her mum to A shop, and she (Mrs. Adams) met one her friends that just had a child. During their conversation, Jenny heard her mum telling her friend that she was unable to come and pay her a visit after her delivery because they had a family vacation.
A few days later, Jenny was at home when their home phone rang, and her mum asked her to pick up. The person at the other end asked, “is this the Adams’ family?” Jenny answers and says, “No! Wrong number, this is not the Adams family!”. Mrs. Adams was furious with Jenny started to scold her for lying. Replying Jenny says, “Mum, but you tell a lot of lies too, I can count two big ones, your sickness, and our family vacation, I am just trying to learn from you.”
We can build or destroy people, especially those who look up to us by our good or bad examples. The First Reading today (Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10) tells us about God’s imploding anger on priests who must lead the people to God by right examples but have succeeded only in driving them away. The denunciation also covers attitudes of partiality and in-house division and fighting among priests.
The First Reading calls to mind St. Peter’s instruction (1 Pet. 4:17) where he says that judgment will begin at the house of God. The directive implies that to whom much is given much is also expected because the corruption of the best is the worst kind of corruption.
The Gospel Reading (Matthew 23:1-12) presents the same line of thought using the Pharisees and Scribes as reference points. Our Lord Jesus Christ advises the people to follow their teaching but not their way of life because they preach, but they do not practice, they give stringent rules, but they do not follow them. They tell the people what they should do, but they do none of them.
This situation has not changed in our age and time from the sanctuary to the pews. Today we have preachers telling people about love but would never care to practice love. We have preachers who give the best sermons on forgiveness but keep people in the darkness of resentment. We have preachers who give lovely and moving messages on giving but would never lift a finger to do even the smallest charity, and we also have immoral moralists as preachers.
Sometimes preachers become too comfortable with themselves and with some people that they lose sight of the need to use proper examples to advance the message of the gospel. Often, some people influence preachers negatively to the point that they present a mismatch between their words and what their lives portray.
Once upon a time, a woman takes her son to a guru to advise him against excessive intake of alcohol. After listening to the woman, the guru tells the woman to return with her son after one month. When they returned, the guru takes his time to talk to the boy privately about the devastating effect of alcohol and how he could start making some changes, and the advice worked.
One month after the encounter with the guru, the woman returns to thank the guru. However, the woman was curious to know why the guru asked her to return after one month during her first with her son. The guru tells her that he was also guilty of alcohol at that time, so he used the one month to disengage entirely from alcohol and thus gained the moral strength to advise the young man.
The message today is not only for religious leader but also for anyone who is in a position of influence over others. As a preacher, teacher mentor, parents, etc. people are looking up to your life for either inspiration or dissuasion. We could make or mar people by our way of life more than the things we say to them. St. Francis of Assisi once said: “preach Jesus, use words if necessary.”
Today, we are called as preachers and teachers in various capacities to show good examples that would align with the content of what we peach and teach. Let us recommit ourselves to practice what we preach with this prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, Make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace.
Where there is hatred, we will show his love
Where there is injury, we will never judge
Where there is striving, we will speak his peace
To the millions crying for release,
We will be his instruments of peace
Where there is blindness, we will pray for sight
where there is darkness, we will shine his light
Where there is sadness, we will bear their grief
To the millions crying for relief,
We will be your instruments of peace
Have a pleasant Sunday and a glorious week ahead. May your words match your actions.