Reflection 5th November 2017

A Reflection for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matt 23:1-12 (  )

The words of today’s first reading and of the gospel, directed towards priests and Church leaders, are hard-hitting.  They are: “You have strayed from the way:  you have caused many to stumble. I, in my turn, have made you contemptible and vile in the eyes of the whole world in repayment for the way you have not kept to my paths.” 

It might do us no harm to re visit our directives about safeguarding.   However, the emphasis of the Prophet and of Jesus appears to be about partiality, nepotism, favouritism, failure to properly instruct and surrounding oneself with an air of self-importance. 

Jesus strikes home against the Scribes and Pharisees of his day: “...You tie up heavy burdens and won’t lift a finger to help.”  If He was giving a Power Point presentation today, words and meanings would shoot up: “… attract attention”, “places of honour”, “front seats in the synagogues”, “being greeted with a bow of reverence”, “called Rabbi.”

B&B is a popular sign in Ireland and in some parts of England. It signifies welcoming overnight accommodation at a reasonable cost.  B&B can also signify Better and Best.  “I think I’m better than you... I think I know what’s best for you.”  They are deep sentiments hidden perhaps in all our hearts, overflowing at times into racism, tribalism, clericalism, family and community rows.   As we read the “bad” news in our newspapers about others, is there not a hint of “well, I’m not like him/her” (but better)?

Both Malachi and Jesus remind us about being equal - at least in God’s eyes.  Malachi. “Have we not all one Father? ... Did not one God create us all”.  Jesus says “you are all brothers… having only one Master, one Teacher, one Father.”

A retreat-master once wrote: “Sometimes we in Church can hear words of the gospel as though they are intended for somebody else and that they do not apply to us.” That is a fatal error.  A priest giving Lectio Divino reminds us that it is not primarily there to help us with our Sunday homily but to change our hearts.

Finally, so many of our Spiritan bishops, priests, brothers, lay helpers and associates have lived - and continue to live out today - the words spoken by St. Paul to the Thessalonians (2nd Reading): “We had come to love you so much that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.”    Please think of examples.  Peace!

Des Arigho C.S.Sp. – Ordained in 1968, Fr. Des has ministered with refugees in both Angola and Zambia, in Kenya in a pastoral role and in Ireland in ‘Promotions’.  Since 2011 he has been based in Nampula, Moçambique.