“O priests. . . you have turned aside from God’s way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction.”
OUCH! The Prophet Malachi does not mince words. We don’t get to hear from him often in our Sunday Scriptures – just twice in the three year cycle of readings.
Like most of the prophets, by God’s prompting – Malachi looked around and was not very happy with what he saw.
In our reading today, he is rebuking priests - the temple leadership of his day - who he felt were failing both in their behavior and in their teachings.
As a member of the clergy, each time I hear a passage such as this - one that includes something negative about priests – I can’t help but think of the many ways many of us have failed you - sometimes in small ways – and – as all of us know - sometimes in horrendous, even criminal ways.
I won’t use our time revisiting all that painful stuff – I just hope we are making progress toward being more faithful and more trustworthy.
Because – we expect a lot from our leaders – whether they are priests, or school teachers, or coaches or politicians – or bosses or people in any type of authority over others.
In a very real sense, we want them to be good examples to us – examples of what it means to be a good person, a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good employee, —a good disciple.
I guess you could say that we expect our leaders to teach us something - to help us be better at whatever it is we are pursuing.
And when they don’t, it hurts. It’s disappointing. It’s deflating and defeating.
– And if their failure is great enough, it might even make us justifiably angry.
“O leaders. . . you have turned aside from God’s way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction.”
We know the importance of having good teachers. And while we most often use this word to mean those standing in front of a classroom – we also know that teaching is not limited only to schools.
Parents hopefully know well that they have the primary responsibility of teaching their children – teaching them right from wrong – teaching them how to be polite and good people - teaching them things they will need to be healthy, happy, and HOLY adults. Important stuff.
And while parents have countless opportunities to tell their daughters and sons all about these things – do this / don’t do that – remember to be polite – be safe –
- be sure to take care of others – study hard -
–in the end the words won’t carry much weight - unless there is also a good example being set by the parents: acting and talking the same as the children are being asked to do.
And that’s not always easy. The saying, talk is cheap - always rings true. . .
And that’s what should lead parents to appreciate the many good teachers we have in our midst – because good teaching takes real skill. It takes passion. It takes creativity. It takes a lot of compassion, patience, and persistence.
And that’s why we should be grateful for those who do choose teaching as a profession – a life of service for the betterment of others. Thank goodness we ALL don’t have to be teachers. . .
Or do we?
Friends may hear us say unkind things about others, or make insensitive comments or jokes. What are we teaching them?
Children may see us grab a week’s worth of napkins, utensils or condiments from a fast food restaurant to take home. What are we teaching them?
We may tell a neighbor it’s okay to falsify information to pay fewer taxes. What are we teaching them?
People may never see us volunteering for anything – always coming up with some excuse why we can’t help. What are we teaching them?
Our co-workers hear us gossiping and mocking almost everyone and everything. What are we teaching them?
Whether we want to be or NOT – we are all teachers. We are all teachers because our words and actions and our lives - say something about who we are – or aren’t.
The way we talk. The things we do or don’t do. The attitudes we embrace. The way we see and talk about and treat others. – They all speak volumes and are absorbed by those around us.
And if we aren’t careful. If we are not aware of this reality. If we aren’t trying to be the best people we can be – we may be doing harm - not only to ourselves – but to everyone we encounter.
O people of God - you have turned aside from God’s way - and have caused many to falter by your instruction.
What do each of us do – or not do - to cause others to falter?
What do each of us say - or not say - to cause others to falter?
These are the heavy burdens we heard Jesus speak about in today’s Gospel passage - the things we expect from others but refuse to do ourselves - the double standard many of us sometimes adopt.
So let’s not be those people - the people who don’t practice what we teach.
Rather, let’s live in such a way that teaches others that we sincerely mean what we say - that our words aren’t empty - but rather expressions of the very same things we are striving to live out.
Moments in time...