Brace yourselves for this:  God is angry at the people closest to him! In the first reading, the Lord issues a strongly worded indictment of his priests, the priests of Israel. They were not being faithful, not guiding the people of God well.  And for that, God will remove their blessings.

This condemnation continues in the gospel as Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees, people who were very close to the Temple, of duplicity. They teach, they perform rituals, but only to be seen and praised by people.  Worse, they teach others precepts, but do not practice their very own teachings.

The readings were written in the distant past, but they do sound familiar to our ears and our eyes.  Isn’t it that we discover that priests too, are human beings?  They too are weak and faltering in faith.  Isn’t it that we also find people who make the church their second home and yet live lives of shallowness?  They are in the church not to be close to God but to be seen by others as looking good and holy.  In reality, everything is for show.

Why is God displeased?  It is because to these people he granted a delicate task, a serious responsibility.  The Lord made them guides of the weak, the little ones, the poor.  But since they are not faithful, they have no capacity to inspire hope in others.

The message of the Lord is not restricted to these historical figures.  It is for us today. Many of us have responsibilities towards others. We are parents, spouses, workers, teachers, friends, students, guardians, elders – and our lives are linked with people who need the light of the Lord.  There are people who rely on us for their experience of God.

Are we faithful to our mission?  Many of us give up when the difficulties are mounting. We are always tempted to waver in serving and loving when we begin to get hurt.  So we settle for the most shallow form of guiding relationships towards others.

In the second reading, the Lord gives us the example of St. Paul who in serving the Thessalonians, did not only give them the gospel but offered them his whole heart. Paul thought not of himself but of the people he could bring to Christ.

Last week, an Italian missionary, murdered for the causes he embraced in the name of service, was laid to rest. He was a faithful servant of Jesus and the poor of Mindanao.  Last week, too, I witnessed the funeral of Ka Luring, who voluntarily lived her life as poor, single and servant of others.  She lived as a catechist, reaching out to the poor children and families in the depressed areas of Manila.

The anger of God is kindled by our neglect of responsibility but his grace flows for those who are faithful.  Let us pray for the gift of faithfulness always.