31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A ~ November 5, 2023
CONTRADICTIONS IN OUR LIFE
The month of November is the month of remembrance in which we not only remember fallen armed personnel but also remember all our deceased brothers and sisters who fallen asleep in the Lord before us. They have left remarkable memories and legacies to cherish that grief changes into joy and happiness. God has set his tent among us and will wipe every tear from eyes because he is the source of all consolation and peace. The word of God is both living and powerful and much more piercing than a two-edged sword. The word of God is plainly shown in all its strength and wisdom to those who seek out Christ, who is the word, the power, and the wisdom of God. This word was with the Father in the beginning, and in its own time was revealed to the apostles, then preached by them and humbly received in faith by believers. So, the word is in the Father, as well as on our lips and in our hearts. This word of God is living; the Father gave it life in itself, just as he has life in himself. For this reason, it not only is alive, but it is life, as he says of himself: I am the way, the truth and the life. Since he is life, he is both living and life-giving. For, as the Father raises up the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to those he chooses. He is life-giving when he calls the dead from the grave and says: Lazarus, come forth. When this word is preached, in the very act of preaching it gives to its own voice, which is heard outwardly, a certain power which is perceived inwardly, so much so, that the dead are brought back to life and by these praises the sons of Abraham are raised from the dead. This word then is alive in the heart of the Father, on the lips of the preacher, and in the hearts of those who believe and love him. Since this word is so truly alive, undoubtedly it is full of power.
It is powerful in creation, powerful in the government of the universe, powerful in the redemption of the world. For what is more powerful, more effective? Who shall speak of its power; who shall make all its praises heard? It is powerful in what it accomplishes, powerful when preached. It does not come back empty; it bears fruit in all to whom it is sent. It is powerful and more piercing than any two-edged sword when it is believed and loved. For what is impossible to the believer? What is difficult for a lover? When this word is spoken, its message pierces the heart like the sharp arrows of a strong man, like nails driven deep; it enters so deeply that it penetrates to the innermost recess. This word is much more piercing than any two-edged sword, inasmuch it is stronger than any courage or power, sharper than any shrewdness of human ingenuity, keener than all human wisdom, or the subtlety of learned argument.
Human beings are full of contradictions. We want what we don’t have. We get tired of what we struggled to get. We say one thing but do another. It’s not just people who behave this way, throughout the universe things are happening that aren’t supposed to be happening. We think we know how something works and then it does something completely different. We like patterns, we like working out the rules and being able to predict events. But there’s always an exception to the rule. An anomaly will arise. The unexpected will turn up with alarming regularity. And when this happens our reaction is to take a closer look. We are fascinated by contradiction and want to examine it for answers, even when there are none to be had. There is a famous saying “curiosity killed the cat” meaning if we don’t change ourselves then we too are going to fall into the temptation of contradiction which most of the time leads us to misunderstanding and broken relationships.
This urge is powerful and is just as strong in the fictional world as it is in the real one. If I tell you story of a man who escaped from prison that could be a very interesting story, but if I tell you he escapes from a prison that was built on the claim that it was escape-proof and that this man was the only one to ever break out, that’s the same story but the framing of the premise makes it a lot more attention-grabbing (or at least it would if you hadn’t already heard it a million times).
The maiden voyage of the Titanic is a great tragedy that has become part of our cultural history, but part of its legend is that it was a boat specifically launched under the title of ‘unsinkable’. And then it sank on its first time out. That’s a massive contradiction that immediately captures the attention. Not that contradiction has to be quite so on the nose. If my prison story is about a petty criminal who gets put in a high security jail and ends up learning all the tricks of the trade from the greatest criminal minds in the country emerging as an expert in all things illegal, then the contradiction there is simply that prisons aren’t supposed to make you better at crime. Of course, just because a contradiction exists doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically produce an engaging story. But if you can find the contradictions in your characters and their adventures and show them to the reader, it will make for a much quicker connection. Many times we witness main stream media doing the same and many people believe that they show the truth but most of the time story is other way around.
It’s part of our nature to experience the world both as we would like it to be and how it actually is. What we believe, what we know, what we stand for and what we end up doing can all be completely opposite to each other and yet exist side by side. Once we learn to listen to the voice of God, then there is ill feelings or contradictions in our lives because the voice of God will always lead us to perfection and righteousness.
One Saturday night, a pastor was working late and decided to call his wife before he left for home. It was about 10:00 PM, but his wife didn’t answer the phone. The pastor let it ring many times. He thought it was odd that she didn’t answer but decided to wrap up a few things and try again in a few minutes. When he tried again, she answered right away. He asked her why she hadn’t answered before, and she said that it hadn’t rung at their house. They brushed it off as a fluke and went on their merry ways.
The following Monday, the pastor received a call at the church office, which was the phone that he’d used that Saturday night. The man that he spoke with wanted to know why he’d called on Saturday night. The pastor couldn’t figure out what the man was talking about. Then the man said, “It rang and rang, but I didn’t answer.”
The pastor remembered the mishap and apologized for disturbing him, explaining that he’d intended to call his wife.
The man said, “That’s okay. Let me tell you my story. You see, I was planning to commit suicide on Saturday night, but before I did, I prayed, ‘God if you’re there, and you don’t want me to do this, give me a sign now.’ At that point, my phone started to ring. I looked at the caller ID, and it said, ‘Almighty God’. I was afraid to answer!”
Today’s Readings are helping us to understand our contradictions and mend our ways to live our lives according to the commandments of the Lord and pure. In the First Reading Prophet Malachi is bluntly challenging everyone to examine themselves and glorify the name of God the Father Almighty. If anyone will refuse to listen what the Lord is going to say then “curse” going to be upon them. The contradictions in the life of Israel have caused them great suffering even exile to Babylon for 70 years. The disobedience and unfaithfulness did cause lot of problem for Israelites and Prophet Malachi is calling them back to God the Father. (Please read Psalm 95, Ezekiel 18 & 33).
As we follow Pastoral Renewal Path for next 5 years in the diocese of Calgary by the theme “You are called, you belong, and you matter” it is all about clearing our contradiction and setting up our goals on the pure Christian discipleship. St. Charles who was a bishop and attended the synod, gave a very inspiring homily. “I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and reflect on heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?
Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already collected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter. If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head. Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.
My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love. This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men”.
Today’s Gospel passage is set in the final days of Jesus’ life, in Jerusalem; days filled with expectations and also tension. On the one hand, Jesus directs harsh criticism at the scribes and Pharisees, and on the other, he entrusts important mandates to Christians of all times, thus also to us.
He says to the crowd: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so, practice and observe whatever they tell you”. Meaning that they have the authority to teach what is in conformity with the Law of God. However, immediately after, Jesus adds: “but do not do ‘what they do; for they preach, but do not practice’”. A frequent flaw of those in authority, whether civil or ecclesiastic authority, is that of demanding of others things — even righteous things — that they do not, however, put into practice in the first person. They live a double life. Jesus says: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. This attitude sets a bad example of authority, which should instead derive its primary strength precisely from setting a good example. Authority arises from a good example, so as to help others to practice what is right and proper, sustaining them in the trials that they meet on the right path. Authority is a help, but if it is wrongly exercised, it becomes oppressive; it does not allow people to grow, and creates a climate of distrust and hostility, and also leads to corruption.
Jesus openly denounces some of the negative conduct of the scribes and of some Pharisees: “they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplaces”. This is a temptation that corresponds to human pride and that is not always easy to overcome. It is the attitude of living only for appearances.
Then Jesus entrusts the mandates to his disciples: “you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. Neither you be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant”.
We, disciples of Jesus must not seek titles of honour, of authority or supremacy. I tell you; it pains me personally to see people who, psychologically, live in pursuit of vain accolades. We, disciples of Jesus must not do this, because among ourselves there must be a simple and fraternal attitude. We are all brothers and sisters and in no way must we abuse others or look down on them. No. We are all brothers and sisters. If we have received talents from the heavenly Father, we must place them at the service of our brothers and sisters, and not exploit them for our own satisfaction and personal interests. We must not consider ourselves superior to others; modesty is essential for an existence that seeks to conform to the teaching of Jesus, who is meek and humble of heart and came not to be served but to serve.
I guess we should have the attitude of this little girl in our day-to-day life. A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable, and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to elementary school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up along with thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school, and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.
Following the roar of thunder, lightning, like a flaming sword, would cut through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child’s school. As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. Another and another were to follow quickly, and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.
When the mother’s car drove up beside the child, she lowered the window and called to her. “What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?”
The child answered, “I am trying to look pretty; God keeps taking my picture.”
Do we live pure life?
Other Sermons In This Series
March 24, 2022
June 24, 2022
July 22, 2022