This past week saw many don costumes masquerading as princesses, superheroes, or celebrities, and for a brief moment, acting as someone else. We have celebrated the men and women who have faithfully placed God first in their lives and are held up by the Church as worthy role models. We have also remembered our loved ones who have died, recall how they have put flesh onto God’s love and with our prayers trust that they have come to the fullness of eternal life. This weekend orange will dot the woods as deer hunters perhaps search and find the trophy deer. For some, it is more the comradery and the reflective silence in the deer stand contemplating the wonders of God.
In a strange way this leads me to thoughts of integrity, of being honest and being consistent with Gospel values. Jesus practiced what he preached. He could always be trusted; his words and actions were perfectly integrated. But he did not completely dismiss the authority of the Pharisees and the scribes. Jesus instructed his disciples to “do and observe whatever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Why? Because they said one thing and did another. At least in Matthew, Jesus frequently called the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites. Though the prophet Malachi (this weekend’s first reading) did use the word hypocrite, certainly described the priests of his day of saying one thing and doing another. The scribes, Pharisees and priests fell short as leaders of their people, but the sacred authors hold them forth for us today — not to assign blame, but so that we might cultivate for ourselves the virtues they lacked. In order to lead and instruct others well, a person must be essentially honest; there should be no gap between word and deed. What one says or does in private should not differ from their actions in public.It can be easy to catch others as being a hypocrite.
Today’s readings invite us to remember that integrity and honesty begin with each of us. Are there times you fail to act with integrity?
Patricia Sánchez writes, “This is the question put before the praying assembly today. As each of us considers this question for ourselves, Paul reminds us that we are equipped by God and by grace for the challenge of being honest. In his correspondence with the believers in Thessalonica (second reading), Paul affirms that those who believe carry within them the very word of God. Moreover, Paul assures us, as he did our ancient brothers and sisters, that the word of God is “at work” in us. With God’s word working in us, we have a living, portable norm by which to measure our thoughts, words and actions. God’s word, as mediated through the law and the prophets and as spoken and lived by Jesus, keeps us whole and holy, honest, just and true. (Celebration, October 2011, pp 41-2)
Over the last few weeks, God’s word has spoken to us about taxes; caring for immigrants, widows and orphans; banquets; vineyards; and about the love of God and neighbor. Through these lessons, we discover that the word of God does not coerce us; rather, God waits for an invite into our hearts. Only in allowing God’s word to shape us can we come to integrity. Then, like Jesus, we will say what we mean and mean what we say: We will be true to the word at work within us.
Have a grace filled week! Fr. Ron