Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 5, 2023
Today’s Gospel has created a certain amount of extra work for me over the past few years. I’ve answered emails from people writing in to our internet and radio question and answer service about the famous passage: “Call no one on earth your father.” Based on this Gospel text, people want to know why Catholic priests like myself seem to violate Jesus’ words on a daily basis by being called “Father.”
Of course I can remind them we priests aren’t alone in this, since most of our dads are also apparent offenders against the text–although that point rarely comes up from the questioner. But the broader meaning of today’s Gospel passage is a teaching of Christ which we in Church authority have sometimes violated. Jesus condemns those who do not practice what they preach; who allow titles and the power they imply to become the focus; who forget that service in love is what leaders in the community must embody.
To bring home Jesus’ point, in today’s First Reading the prophet Malachi warns the priests of his time: Keep the focus on our common Father, the one who has created us. Good advice for all Christians–but especially for the “Fathers” in our midst who’ve been given that title in Church service. With Jesus, with the prophet, and with those good folks who continue to ask me about my title—I hope I can hear the challenge!