Today’s gospel passage invites us to reflect on the meaning of true authority and service in the kingdom of God. Jesus warns us against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, who teach the law of Moses but do not practice what they preach. They impose heavy burdens on others but do not lift a finger to help them. They seek honor and recognition from people but do not give glory to God. They love to be called “Rabbi”, “Father”, and “Teacher” but do not acknowledge the one Teacher, the one Father, and the one Lord.
Jesus tells us that we are not to imitate their example, but rather to follow his way of humility and service. He says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus himself is the model of this attitude, for he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He is the cornerstone of the Church, the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and the head of the body. He is the source of all authority and grace, and he shares his gifts with us so that we may serve one another in love.
How can we apply this teaching to our lives? First, we need to examine our own motives and actions, and ask ourselves if we are faithful to the word of God and the teachings of the Church. Do we obey the commandments and the precepts of the Church? Do we practice the virtues and the works of mercy? Do we participate in the sacraments and the liturgy? Do we seek God’s will and not our own? Do we avoid sin and temptation, and repent when we fall? Do we strive to grow in holiness and love?
Second, we need to recognise and respect the authority that God has given to his Church and to his ministers. We need to listen to the voice of the Pope, the bishops, and the priests, who are the successors of the apostles and the teachers of the faith. We need to support them with our prayers, our obedience, and our cooperation. We need to honor them as our spiritual fathers and brothers, and not criticise them or judge them. We need to remember that they are human and frail, and that they need our encouragement and forgiveness.
Third, we need to serve one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and not seek our own interests or glory. We need to use the gifts and talents that God has given us for the common good and not for our own benefit. We need to share our time, our resources, and our talents with those in need and not be selfish or greedy. We need to be humble and not proud, and not think that we are better or more important than others. We need to be gentle and not harsh, and not hurt or offend others with our words or actions. We need to be peacemakers and not troublemakers, and not cause division or conflict in the Church or in the world.
Let us pray that we may follow the example of Jesus, the humble and obedient servant, and not the example of the scribes and Pharisees, the hypocritical and arrogant leaders. Let us pray that we may be faithful to the word of God and the teachings of the Church, and not to our own opinions and preferences. Let us pray that we may serve one another in love and not seek our own honor and recognition. Let us pray that we may be humble and not exalt ourselves, and that God may exalt us in his time and in his way. Amen.
The Lord be with you
And with your spirit.
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 23:1-12
Glory to you, O Lord
Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said,
‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant.
Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will exalted.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.