Rev. John Kha Tran

Poorest Preacher

After the Sunday Mass, the priest was greeting his flock at the door.

A young boy stopped and told him: “I want to grow up and get a good job so I can give you and your church lots of money.”

“That’s very nice,” the priest said. “What made you decide to be so generous?”

“Today’s sermon,” the boy replied. “When you finished, my dad said you were about the poorest preacher he’s ever heard.”

Every once in a while the media reports a story about some clergy or religious leader who gets ousted because of some scandal involving personal relationships, sexual abuse, or sordid financial dealings. It is always painful for priests and ministers to hear about these personal failings.

The Problem

Today’s readings especially are punishing for clergy to read.

God said through Malachi, “You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter.”

This was an indictment of their ministry. God was not happy with the people of Israel, especially with their leaders.

Returning home from the Babylonian exile, things were going badly. The temple had not been rebuilt. The priests were corrupt.

Rather than presenting the best of their animals, they offered the blind, the lame and the sick animals as their sacrifices to God.

They were flirting with paganism by offering sacrifices to their gods.

They did not devote their time to give people proper religious instruction.

Falling from the grace of God and becoming sinful in their conducts, they influenced others to turn to sin.

“If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the Lord, I will send a curse upon you.”

In the Gospel reading, we heard Jesus denounced the scribes and the Pharisees. Scribes and Pharisees were Jewish religious leaders, but Jesus was not happy with them.  He called them hypocrites because they said one thing and did the opposite. They preached but did not practice what they preached. They performed religious acts to be seen. They sought the honoring titles, “Rabbi” “Father” and “Master.” They called attention to themselves rather than seeking the glorification of the Almighty God. They were serving themselves and their own agenda rather than serving God and God’s agenda. Therefore Jesus was not pleased with them.

Find God in Works of Service

Is Jesus happy with you? Is Jesus happy with us? What Jesus wants you and me to do is neither to seek a title for ourselves nor the glorification of names, but to seek God and the glorification of God, to put our faith in action; to put on the spirit of service; to serve selflessly and wholeheartedly.

A missionary in India shared his experiences:

As a young University student in Paris, I had taken many courses in philosophy and religion. I spent many hours each week in discussions with other students -- talking about God, about the meaning of life, about some clear purpose for my life. It was an exciting and a good time, but I couldn't find direction for myself until a young man said something to me that change my life forever. During one of the discussions, he looked at me directly and said, "You will never find God through discussion and debate because God is Love. You will find Him only when you love unselfishly." At this time I was doing research on the life of Francis of Assisi. In my research, I came to that moment in Francis of Assisi's life which was for him the turning point. He had given up his wealth and felt that God was calling him, but he could not make the breakthrough. It was then, by a sheer act of will, that he forced himself to physically embrace a leper. That was the breakthrough for Francis. I was deeply moved by that episode and when I heard of the need for someone to work on the staff of a leprosarium in India, I came to this place. Here I have remained, and here I have found God. You will never find God through discussion and debate, and you will never find God through self-exaltation, because He is a God of Love. You will find Him only when you love unselfishly.