31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time


True source of all fatherhood and authority

In my first parish as a new priest I was getting on a bus one day and as I was paying the bus driver, who I later found out was a Jehovah Witness, asked me 'are you a catholic priest?' 'Yes' I said 'then why do you let people call you Father?' he said 'In the gospel Jesus says 'call no one your Father because you have only one Father who is in heaven.'

I am afraid I was at a loss. No one had ever asked me that before. If I had had my wits about me I could have replied by asking him what his children called him, or what you call those people in schools who teach children. Jesus words reveal to us that the true Father, the True Teacher the true Rabbi (or master) is God. All fatherhood, all teaching, all authority comes from God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and a good father, a good teacher, a good master reveals not themselves but God.

Criticism of religious leaders in the Scripture

This is at the heart of the criticism of priests in the Old Testament reading. They have refused to glorify God, they have put themselves first, their own views, their own desires. In doing that they have hidden or obscured the truth. What they reveal is not Divine truth but themselves and in so doing they have lead many astray. And finally, they have been partial, this is an astute observation, the priests who do not teach the truth, who do not reveal God, cannot rely on the authority of God to support them, they must rely on the support of other people who share their views, so they favour their friends and accomplices.

Nearly 450 years later it is the same criticism Jesus levels at the religious leaders - you do nothing to help the people, instead you are concerned with looking good yourselves, with attracting attention, with receiving honour, with being popular, with appealing to a particular group.

St Paul in the second reading gives the example of what the priest should be like. At the service of the people with great love, like a mother, but above all rejoicing because the people recognise that the words and actions of the priest, what he reveals, isn't his opinions or any human thinking but God's message.

How it applies to all people

It is good for a priest to examine his conscience in the light of God's word today but the word applies to all of us too in slightly different ways, parents, teachers, those in authority, those who have responsibility. Do we fulfill our vocation in a way which leads not to our glory but to God's, which reveals not us but God and enables us, in the end, to rely not on what others say but on the strength and power and love of God.

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Parochial Administrator: Fr Rob Morland SMA
Address: St Joseph's Presbytery, Portland Crescent, Manchester, M13 0BU
Call or text: 0757 528 8370
Email: rob.morland@dioceseofsalford.org.uk

 
 

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