Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
November 05, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.





Almighty and merciful God,
by whose gift your faithful offer you
right and praiseworthy service,
grant, we pray,
that we may hasten without stumbling
to receive the things you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts,
   and my name will be feared among the nations.
And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:
   If you do not listen,
if you do not lay it to heart,
   to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,
I will send a curse upon you
   and of your blessing I will make a curse.
You have turned aside from the way,
   and have caused many to falter by your instruction;
you have made void the covenant of Levi,
   says the LORD of hosts.
I, therefore, have made you contemptible
   and base before all the people,
since you do not keep my ways,
   but show partiality in your decisions.
Have we not all the one father?
   Has not the one God created us?
Why then do we break faith with one another,
   violating the covenant of our fathers?

Responsorial Psalm. Ps 131:1, 2, 3

℟. In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

O LORD, my heart is not proud,
   nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
   nor with things too sublime for me.

Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
   my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
   so is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD,
   both now and forever.

Second Reading 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13

Brothers and sisters:
We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. 
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
   not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
   so dearly beloved had you become to us. 
You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. 
Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,
   we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,
   that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
   you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God,
   which is now at work in you who believe.

Acclamation before the Gospel


Gospel. Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
   have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
   but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
   and lay them on people’s shoulders,
   but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
   greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
   you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
   you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
   but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Catena Nova

No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, “Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?” Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity…. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as children of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father. (St. Jerome)
We descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.  (St. Benedict)

Having told his disciples not to allow themselves to be called master, or to love seats of honor and things of that kind, he himself set an example and was a model of humility…. None of them must seek positions of honor; whoever wishes to be greater than the rest must first become the servant of all, as Christ himself did. If anyone wants a high office let him want the labor it entails, not the honor it will bring him. He should desire to serve and minister to everyone, and not expect everyone to serve and minister to him. For the desire to be served comes from the supercilious attitude of the Pharisees; the desire to serve from the teaching of Christ. Those who canvass for positions of honor are the ones who exalt themselves; and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord. After specifically reserving the office of teaching to himself, Christ immediately went on to give as the rule of his teaching that whoever wants to be greatest should be the servant of all…. Anyone therefore who wants to be Christ’s disciple must hasten to learn the lesson he professes to teach, for a perfect disciple will be like his master. Otherwise, if he refuses to learn the master’s lesson, far from being a master himself, he will not even be a disciple. (St. Paschasius Radbertus)

There are many who are hypocrites although they think they are not, and there are many who are afraid of being hypocrites although they certainly are not. Which is the one and which is the other God knows, and none but He. (Walter Hilton)

Christ is our only true teacher. Unless we listen to his voice speaking within us, no teacher or preacher will be able to lead us to the truth. To understand this we need to be deeply impressed by the following Christian truth: Besides the sound that strikes the ear there is a secret voice that speaks within and this is the real. Without it all that human words can say is a vain echo of truth. The Son of God doesn’t allow us to assume the title of master, for there is only one master and teacher. None but God can really teach us. Neither humans nor angles can do more than point toward the truth but only God can teach in a way that enables us to distinguish truth from falsehood….Only in Christ’s light can we differentiate correctly. It is our love for Jesus that enables us to savor what is really of God. Jesus is the one who opens our hearts and speaks inwardly. Are we listening for his voice? (Jacques Bossuet)

Jesus scoffs at those who want the best places in the synagogues and banquets and who want to be greeted with fawning respect in the marketplace. We scoff at them too since mocking the foibles of our leaders and putting them down is everybody’s favorite blood sport. Which is to say that it is not just false prophets and ruthless leaders and scribes and Pharisees who do these things. We all do them. We all try to be a little more equal than other people in little and big ways. It is this desire to be more equal than others that causes us to lay heavy burdens on the shoulders of others and not “lift a finger to move them.” After all, putting a weight on another makes the person stoop, lowering that person. So why do anything to help the lowered person rise up? (Abbot Andrew Marr)

Authority arises from a good example, so as to help others to practise 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….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.(Pope Francis)


Today’s gospel reminds me of an Italian proverb my devout grandmother was fond of repeating to her grandson the priest: Fa’ che dice il prete, ma non che fa “Do what the priest says, but not what he does.”  I was never quite sure why she thought I needed to be reminded of the proverb, but it’s pretty much a verbatim of Jesus’ own words about the Pharisees: Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice (G).
That’s one reason I call preaching “necessary hypocrisy.”  No one should be more aware than a preacher of the gap between word and deed.  Nevertheless, preach we must.  If for no other sake than the office we’ve received – again like the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus said sat on the chair of Moses – despite their hypocrisy (G).  Jesus knew well how the word of God makes an equal claim, whether by saint or sinner proclaimed.  As long as the preaching is sound, we are bound by the gospel of God (II) no matter who preaches it.  Though when the gap between word and deed is seen to be a chasm, even if the preacher speaks the truth, it's hard to believe.
And no one has been harder on hypocrisy than Pope Francis, and he's been especially critical when it involves what he has called the “evil of clericalism”  He spoke of it again last month during the Synod the he said:
Clericalism is a scourge, it is a blow. It is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride; it enslaves the holy, faithful people of God. And the people of God, the holy, faithful people of God, go forward patiently and humbly, enduring the scorn, mistreatment and marginalization of institutionalized clericalism. How naturally we speak of the princes of the Church, or of episcopal promotions as getting ahead career-wise! The horrors of the world, the worldliness that mistreats God’s holy and faithful people.
As if that weren't enough, he continued:
When ministers go too far in their service and mistreat the people of God, they disfigure the face of the Church with machismo and dictatorial attitudes.… It is painful to see a 'price list' for sacramental services, in some parish offices, just like in a supermarket. Either the Church is the faithful people of God on a journey, saints and sinners, or she ends up being a business offering a variety of services. And when pastoral ministers take this second path, the Church becomes a supermarket of salvation, and priests, mere employees of a multinational company. This is the great defeat to which clericalism leads us — with great sorrow and scandal (it is enough to go into the ecclesiastical tailor shops in Rome to see the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats, or albs and lace robes (October 25, 2023).
So much for clerical hypocrisy.  But Francis doesn't place blame solely on clergy for the church's problems.  One memorable day at the Vatican heard him say this about hypocrites in our ranks:
 'I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money .…'  'A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others….' 'But to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist' (Feb 23, 2017).
Reminds me of mobster Joseph Valachi, a baptized Catholic.  He specialized in murder contracts put out by the mob.  After he turned informer, he told of being hired by another baptized Catholic to rub out a rival.  The hit was scheduled for a Sunday but Mr. Valachi couldn’t get a clear shot of his target without endangering too many bystanders.  He reported his failure to the boss who was very understanding.  He just wanted to know if Joe had gone to Mass that day.  He hadn’t.  So the real life godfather shook his head, and scolded him, saying, “Rubbing out the competition is good for business, but going to Mass on Sunday is important for your soul.”
That kind of thing got ol’ Malachi hot under the mantle:  . . . You do not lay [God’s] command­ment to heart. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction (I).  But surely our own hypocrisies are tame in comparison.  Those little masks we wear to hide what’s in the heart.  The secret motives that drive us - even to church.  I used to know someone who would do absolutely anything for the church, except go to Mass.  She’d work on bingo, make cookies for bake sales, hawk raffle tickets.  But never attend worship.  Why?  Because she didn’t like all the hypocrites, starting with the priest.  She thought he showed too much partiality (I).
I was tempted to remind her of Groucho Marx’s famous line: “I would never want to belong to an organization that would have me as a member.”  So if she wanted a church free of hypocrisy, she’s better stay away.  But after talking with her about it, I realized her big problem was a lack of recognition.  She only saw the “necessary hypocrites” standing in the pulpit and sitting in the pew.  Blind to her own secret little hypocrisies — not to mention Jesus' injunction about judging others.  People who stay away from church because of us “hypocrites” need a little reminder about such things.  Still, our bad example is a reason why the church is shunned by so many.
In that same talk at the Synod in October, Francis also said: 


I like to think about the Church as the faithful people of God, saints and sinners….I like to think of the Church as this simple and humble people walking in the Lord’s presence (the faithful people of God)…. Simply the faithful people…on a journey, saint and sinner. And this is the Church.


And so the preaching and the praying goes on.  With truth held in earthen vessels, cracked and misshapen.  As it must be.  And there will always be people humble enough to distinguish between the message and the messenger.  This gave St. Paul courage in his day.  And today’s preachers can hopefully make his words their own: For this reason, we . . . give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving God’s message from us . . . you welcomed it, not as a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, at work in you who believe (II).  But next time you hear the mantra, "The Church is full of hypocrites" — you might respond, "Thank be to God."

Intercessions (Joe Milner;  The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that we make God central in our lives and allow our hearts to be formed by Christ our Teacher.

For all leaders of the Christian Community: that they may manifest the love and compassion of God in their words and deeds and strengthen the community in fulfilling their vocations.

For freedom from religious intolerance: that God will help us to recognize all that is good and true in the religious practices of others.

For all who are bound by additions: that God will free them and lead them to newness of life.

For members of Congress: that God will give them insight as they struggle to balance the demands of the economy, of security, and of the needs of the vulnerable and powerless.

For all who have fled warfare and violence: that God will give them strength, help them as they make a new beginning and free them from hatred and revenge.

Sovereign God, we have no father but you, no teacher but Christ.  Conform our lives to the faith we profess, preserve us from arrogance and pride, and teach us in Christ the greatness of humility and service.  We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Anthem (William Matthias +1992)

As truly as God is our Father so just as truly is he our Mother.
 In our Father, God Almighty, we have our being; in our merciful Mother we are remade and restored.
 Our fragmented lives are knit together.
 And by giving and yielding ourselves, through grace, to the Holy Spirit, we are made whole.

It is I, the strength and goodness of Fatherhood.
 It is I, the wisdom of Motherhood.
 It is I, the light and grace of holy life.
 It is I, the Trinity, It is I the unity.

I am the sovereign goodness in all things.
 It is I who teach you to love.
 It is I who teach you to desire.
 It is I who am the reward of all true desiring. All shall be well,
 and all shall be well,
 and all manner of thing shall be well. (Mother Julian of Norwich)

Communion Antiphon

Closing Hymn (Arnold Bax +1953)

Lord! thou hast told us that there be
 Two dwellings which belong to Thee;
 And those two — that's the wonder — 
Are far asunder.

The one the highest heaven is,
 The mansions of eternal bliss;
 The other's the contrite
 And humble sprite.

Though heaven be high, the gate is low,
 And he that comes in there must bow;
 The lofty looks shall ne'er
 Have entrance there.

O God! since Thou delight'st to rest
 Within the humble, contrite breast, 
First make me so to be;
 Then dwell with me.