Grace to you!
The best way to inspire others is to lead by example. The best way to lead is to model the way.
I remember a hardworking mom who knew how to do just that. Her son was scoring all As in high school. As days rolled by, he began to ignore his studies, believing he would pass anyway. It wasn't long before he hardly made a B- on his midterm.
The mom saw this coming. She had been persuading her son to get serious with his academics, to no avail. Fortunately, she had a brilliant idea. She invited her son over and showed him her grades while she was in high school.
The son was silent, seeing that the mom had perfect scores when she was his age. She had said all she wanted. The impact on the boy was far more than all her "scolding."
Sure enough, years later, after admission into one of the Ivy League schools, the young man thanked the mom for showing him her grades. "That spoke more to me than all the theory about commitment to my studies, all the scolding…"
Action, they say, speaks louder (and clearer) than words. The best teacher, the best mom or dad, the best religious leader, is the one who lives what he or she stands for, what the person teaches. A sincere effort to live what we preach, despite human weaknesses, is a sure sign of integrity.
Speaking about the religious leaders of the time, the Lord Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice (Mt 23:1-3).
Strong words, aren't they? Here, the Lord distinguishes a "teaching office" and the morality of the teacher. In like manner, he distinguishes adherence to the truth taught from following the teacher's lifestyle. Often, we tend to fuse the lifestyle of the teacher with what is being taught. This is risky and spiritually dangerous.
It doesn't give religious leaders or teachers the license to live in such a way as to disregard what they represent. The recent news of obnoxious clergy sexual scandals in the USA, that heinous and horrifying bad example, is a cause for serious self-examination for church leaders. Consider the unimaginable harm this does to the victims, their families, and the Church. We must unite to root out this sort of evil and see that justice is done.
Saint Paul warned against showing a bad example when he addressed several questions to those with authority to teach and preach. "You then who teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law? As it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you' " (Rom 2:21–24).
As a priest, these words speak directly to me. Do I practice what I preach? Or do I downplay one aspect or another of the gospel simply because it makes me uncomfortable or challenges my way of life? When I cherry-pick what is convenient from God's Word instead of accepting and honestly committing to live all by God's grace, the consequences can be disastrous.
I pray that God will give us the grace to follow the Lord and walk in his footsteps, even when it is not convenient or popular. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 20 Ordinary Time A: Ez 43:1-7; Mt 23:1-12]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.