I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God’s word confronts our behavior so we receive His mercy

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In the readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, God simply tells us that when we take His word to heart, it produces good things in our hearts and therefore in our lives. When we fail to live that word, we fail to realize the happiness and peace that God's word is meant to bring.

In the first reading from Malachi, the Lord speaks to the leaders of the Jews and tells them: "You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction."

How does this resonate with priests and teachers of religion who sometimes are afraid of telling their hearers the Gospel truth, so they soften the teachings of Jesus in areas such as human sexuality?

How does this sit with parents who stay home from Sunday Mass, thereby teaching young children that Sunday worship isn't important? Not only do they deprive themselves of the hope of the kingdom, but also the children God has entrusted to them to be instructed in the faith.

He continues: "Have we not all the one Father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with each other, violating the covenant of our fathers?" It's one thing to refuse the invitation to accept the Good News, but another thing to stand in the way of others even hearing of the Good News.

We all know parents who are very devoted to getting their children to Sunday morning sports but not to Mass. Perhaps they choose not to be reminded of the difficulties of following the Gospel. However, the way to dispel that discomfort is to live God's word, not ignore it. Perhaps they think a sports scholarship would go a long way to paying college tuition. Who is thinking about the child's eternal future?

I remember once a Catholic who had drifted away from Sunday Mass attendance, said to me, "The reason I don't come to Sunday Mass is that you constantly talk about money." My response was, "Then you have not been here for the last 18 months!" He changed his tune and quickly said, "The reason I don't come to Church on Sunday Mass is that you people up here are all a bunch of hypocrites!" I replied, "You ought to see what kind of hypocrites we would be if we didn't go to Sunday Mass!" He was speechless.

The purpose of God's word is simply to confront our behavior so that we repent and receive God's mercy. Repentance, which takes humility, leads us to change our worldview: "I am not my own savior, and I need God's help to save me. I need God's word to challenge me!"

In the second reading, Paul celebrates the Thessalonians who have humbly received the word of God and have allowed it to transform their hearts, their relationships and their lives. Paul celebrates the power of God's word alive in their hearts.

How many of you who listen to Paul's words today are filled with gratitude because you yourself have felt a similar power changing your lives as you engaged in one of the renewal movements, such as Cursillo, ACTS, Christ Renews His Parish, or a Life in the Spirit Seminar?

What have you done with this new momentum from the Holy Spirit? Have you led others to experience the love of the Holy Spirit, which you received when you were active? How many other people are in the movement today because of what you received and shared with others? If, by any chance, you have allowed the gifts of the Holy Spirit to grow dormant within you, I strongly encourage you to stir up those gifts and continue to evangelize. In heaven you want to be surrounded by friends whom you have helped along the way.

Jesus and His Holy Spirit are the evangelizers and we aren't. He said, "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." When people see Christ's light shining upon our faces and through our actions, they know He invites them also to experience His light and love in similar ways.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks very powerful words about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus says, "Do everything and observe everything they tell you. But do not follow their example. Their words are bold but their deeds are few."

They pervert religion because they put the emphasis not on a change of heart, but a change in external appearances.

They focus their people's attention not on obeying God, but on external appearances that make them look good to others. Hence, they take God out of religion. He sums up His whole teaching with one very simple statement: "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."

When we allow the word of God to humble us and lead us to repentance, suddenly our neighbor looks so much better through the lens of the Gospel we are now living. Living a repentant life and being joyous fools for Jesus keeps us from looking like fools in the sight of God.

When it comes to wise investing, the gold standard for Christians is to invest more time in prayerfully reading the word of God daily. More of God and less of us is good news for ourselves and for our families and friends. You will help them chart a clear and certain path through a crazy, confused and mixed-up world. 

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