Practice BEFORE you preach ….

     I can honestly say that I never heard my parents say, “do what I say and not what I do!”  While there might be those who hold others to a higher standard than they are willing to adhere to, I was fortunate that my parents were not among them.

     In today’s Gospel [Matthew 23:1-12] Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “do and observe all things whatsover they tell you, but do not follow thier example.  For they preach but they do not practice.”

     Wow!  What a judgment to cast on someone — they preach, but they do not practice.

     Roughly 20% of the American population claims to be “believers” who do not belong to any church or denomination.  These folks claim to be spiritual — to have faith in God.  But, they cannot “find” a church to call home, or a preacher in whom they can instill trust.

     Too often Church leaders want to blame secular society and a hedonistic generation. People have “lost their way.”  Some have blamed a breed of “new age” theologians who preach a modern(istic) Gospel and situational ethics/morality.  Maybe.  But, maybe not. I suggest there might be those who build church structure without building Church.  There are those who foucs on the demands of the law without living the Gospel of Love.

      Suppose our leaders in Washington provided a health care plan exactly equal to the one to which they were entitled as “elected public servants”.    Suppose those who say we must have a balanced budget — agree to a pay cut if the budget is not balanced?

      The prophet Malachi (1:14-2:2-10)  tells those in leadership: “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 away from my way, and have caused many to falter by your instructions.”

       Instead of wasting time blaming “the other” and labeling “the other” as the false prophet and the “problem with the Church” …… let us remember that time will prove where wisdom lies.  In time, the fruit will tell who was right.

       The question: do we hold ourselves to the same standard as we expect others to follow?  do we really practice what we preach?  does our preaching instill life and love or death and bitterness?

      Do we make an effort to LIFT THE BURDENS of others … or do we add to their burdens by laying upon them unnecessary practices?  Do we understand and feel the demands that husbands and wives, students and teachers, employers and employees deal with everyday?  Is our world intertwined with the world of everyone else, or do we live separate, apart, in an “ivory tower”?  Do the people who look to us see “one like themselves” or someone who would never understand?  If we preach, do we preach “from the chair of Peter” or do we preach from among the people?  Do we preach pious fervorinos “those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” … or do we face the harsh, scolding words of Jesus?

       Bishop Gerald Kicansas has warned that priesthood is not about power, privilege, or prestige.  He says that the pedestal has been struck down.  The status has been lost.  So: are we restoring confidence and welcoming others with warm compassion — or do our actions and practices drive others away because they seem superficial and empty?

       Everyone of us can use our time this week to reflect upon sins we have committed in the “name of being religious” or the times that we have hypocritically taught one thing and live another.  Do we expect from our spouse more than we are willing to give ourselves?

     Ralph Waldo Emerson said: Don’t (just) say things.  What you are stands over you all the while and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”

     In the African American community, there is a way to describe people … some talk the talk …. others walk the walk.  Let’s all quit talking and start walking.




About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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