"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
October 30, 2011: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Malachi 1:14-2:2; 8-10
Synopsis: Malachi wrote around the middle of the sixth century B.C. after the exiles had returned to Jerusalem. He gives us valuable insight into Jewish life immediately after the Babylonian Captivity, but before the liturgical reforms instituted by Ezra and Nehemiah. His name means “my messenger” suggesting, perhaps, that he wished to remain anonymous. No wonder. The first two chapters, from which the first reading is taken, are a scathing indictment of the priests of his day. They had dishonored God by offering improper worship, “making void the covenant of Levi.” Malachi reminds them that God is their Father to whom they will be held accountable.
The first reading was chosen to match up with this week’s Gospel, where Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees. He tells his disciples, “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”
As in the days of Malachi, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more concerned about their own prestige and power than the integrity of the Temple and the good of the people. The reading concludes with Jesus saying that humility and a readiness to serve are the indispensable qualities of God’s ministers.
You can tell from the second reading that St. Paul wasn’t anything like the men that Jesus (or Malachi) criticized. Paul addresses the Thessalonians with great affection, recalling how he cared for them like a nursing mother. He didn’t just want to share the Gospel with them, he wanted to share his very self. St. Paul wasn’t only an incredibly effective missionary, he was an exemplary pastor of souls.
Key Verse: “The greatest among you must be your servant” (Mt 23:11).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The sacrament of holy orders communicates a “sacred power,” which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all” (No. 1559).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The priesthood, let us always remember, is based on having the courage to say ‘yes’ to another will, in the awareness that we are growing every day, that precisely by conforming to God’s will. By immersing ourselves in this will, not only will our own originality not be obliterated, but on the contrary, we will penetrate ever more deeply into the truth of our being and our ministry” (Homily at priestly ordination, June 2, 2010).
Life application: True religious reform begins with “right worship” (“Ortho-doxy”). In a few weeks the words of the Mass will be different as the new translation of the Roman Missal goes into effect on Nov. 27. This is a wonderful opportunity for spiritual renewal for the whole Church, clergy and laity alike. Pray for your priests who are chiefly responsible for implementing the new translation. May they do so in a true spirit of humility and service. And may we, the laity, receive it in that same spirit.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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