CONTENTS OF THIS SECTION
- Readings for the Sunday.
- Reflective Questions. For private or group use.
- Focusing the Gospel.
- Connecting the Gospel.
- Understanding Scripture.
SUGGESTION BEFORE YOU READ THE SCRIPTURES TODAY.
Try not to read just to read it and get through it. Got my drift? We can do this so easily. Take the Readings slowly….as you read, you might like to read it aloud. The sounds of the words help us concentrate and it helps us reflect as we read. Try and be aware of your breathing before you even start….it is better to be at 5 k.p.h that 50! Enable words and meanings to gently jump out at you….soothingly take note in your mind as to what teases you as you read and see God’s Word. Don’t forget that the First Reading is always linked to the Gospel…..see if you can pick up the links.
First Reading: Malachi 1:14 – 2:2. 8-10
I am a great king, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is feared throughout the nations. And now, priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, if you do not find it in your heart to glorify my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send the curse on you and curse your very blessing. You have strayed from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your teaching. You have destroyed the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts. And so I in my turn have made you contemptible and vile in the eyes of the whole people in repayment for the way you have not kept to my paths but have shown partiality in your administration.
Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why, then, do we break faith with one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Psalm: Ps 130
R. In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
O Lord, my heart is not proud nor haughty my eyes. I have not gone after things too great nor marvels beyond me. R.
Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. A weaned child on its mother’s breast, even so is my soul. R.
O Israel, hope in the Lord both now and for ever. R.
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9. 13
Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and 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. Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good news to you.
Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12
Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
R E F L E C T I V E Q U E S T I O N S
1. The priests in this reading neglected their duty and are responsible for the erosion of faith among the people. In general what do you think are some contemporary issues that erode people’s faith? In particular what erodes your faith? What increases your faith?
2. Malachi points out in this reading that the priests were showing partiality and not preaching the Torah with fidelity and good example. What serious responsibilities do privileged positions within a community bring with them?
1. According to this reading explain what makes Paul such an effective minister. In which message are you going to be more interested, one given by someone that cares about you by one who doesn’t know your name?
2. Aelred Rosser, OSB says, “He (Paul) has personal integrity and credibility because what he has received as a gift he gives as a gift.” Discuss some characteristics of people you know about whom you can say the same thing.
Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 23, Verses 1-12
1. In Luke 22: 26-27, Jesus says, ”But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves.” Jesus instituted an office of service. “Wide belts,” tassels,” places of honor and titles helped the scribes and Pharisees increase their social status but did they help them serve others better? What does help you serve?
2. Could remembering “You have but one Father in heaven,” help you remain humble? How? In this Gospel what is Jesus’ message for religious leaders that is relevant for all times? What is Jesus’ message for you?
Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases
You must therefore do what the the scribes and Pharisees tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do.
You have only one Master, and you are all brothers and sisters.
You have only one Teacher, the Christ.
Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
Why do we break faith with one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?
We were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our lives as well
to the point
Jesus criticises those who pursue the titles rabbi, father, master. This controversy involves more than social prestige and honour: it reveals how people view themselves in relation to others. But what really matters is how we understand ourselves in relation to God who alone is Father and Master. When that is clear, we know ourselves to be servants.
Connecting the Gospel
to the first reading
The reading from Malachi reinforces the teaching of Jesus: we have one father, one God. Knowing this keeps us in proper relationship to God our creator and moves us ‘to give glory to [God’s] name.’
to baptism and religious experience
The first reading addresses a commandment to priests. Because of baptism we all share in Christ’s priesthood; all of us, then, are commanded to practice the faith we preach and to live as servants.
Titles of honour
As Matthew is writing his gospel in the 80s, Christianity is emerging as a sect distinct from Judaism. In such circumstances new groups tend to distinguish themselves sharply from the parent group from which they are separating. This Sunday’s gospel reflects attempts by Matthew’s community to define itself against the larger Jewish community.
During the time of Jesus the ‘chief priests and elders’ exercised leadership. But in Matthew’s gospel the focus, instead, is on ‘the scribes and the Pharisees’ who stand for the leadership class. This shift may reflect a time after the destruction of the Temple (70 a.d.) when priests had ceased to function as leaders. In any event, Jesus castigates ‘the scribes and the Pharisees’ because ‘they tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders’ (23:4). This is in contrast to Jesus whose ‘burden is easy’ and whose ‘yoke is light’ (11:30).
The Pharisees are fond of titles. ‘Rabbi’ literally means ‘my great one.’ After the destruction of the Temple the Torah became the defining feature of Jewish life; those who were learned in the Torah emerged as important teachers and were shown respect by this title. In the Christian community, however, Jesus is the Teacher: disciples must ‘learn from me’ (11:29). Similarly, ‘father’ was a title of honour for esteemed ancestors, like our use of ‘Founding Fathers,’ ‘Fathers of the Church,’ and an early Jewish collection of teachings called ‘Sayings of the Fathers.’ Matthew eschews this title and reserves it for God, a usage reflected in this Sunday’s first reading: ‘Have we not all the one Father? Has not the one God created us?’ (Mal 2:10). In the same way that only God should be called ‘Father,’ only ‘the Christ’ shall be called ‘Master.’ Apart from this very minimal hierarchy – one Father, one Master – all members of the Christian community relate to one another as ‘brothers’ (Matthew 23:8); this is in keeping with the metaphor of God as Father: the Christian community is the family of God. In this egalitarian model greatness is measured by service and humility is a mark of honour.
Don’t forget! A realhomilie for this Sunday from Fr.Kev will be posted on this coming Thursday night!