AUGUST 21. Ord Time B. Wk 20. Sat. Mt.23 1-12
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 be exalted.’
Christ started today’s reading with a statement that the scribes and Pharisees “occupy the chair of Moses” so they were the legitimate rulers and teachers who had a responsibility to interpret the Law for the people and guide them in living it.
However, they did not support Christ’s teachings so there was a chasm between them and the Son of God. But still, Christ did not want the people to be hostile towards their rulers; - so he said: “do not be guided by what they do; - since they do not practise what they preach!”
He then went on to demonstrate how these leaders were focussed on themselves, rather than the needs of those they were meant to guide and teach; - “Everything they do is to attract attention like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi!”
Christ’s focus, on the other hand, was solely on the Will of God and the needs of the people, something he demonstrated both by what he preached and by the way in which he lived; - desiring nothing for himself and teaching detachment, humility, charity and the need to make reparation for sin via self-denial and sacrifice.
And this chasm between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of the Pharisees continues to this day, with Christ’s way of life readily present to us in the Gospels; - and the Pharisee’s way of life present to us in the values of today’s world.
Christ seeks to have us love God and love our neighbour; - while the world tells us peace and happiness are found in loving ourselves; - and even though our own life experience teaches us Christ is correct; - we continue to allow the values of the world to influence our way of life?
Do you notice how we all know what others need to do in order to live a good Christian life, and we are critical of them for their failures in not doing so; - but we completely overlook the fact we repeatedly fail to do what we know we should be doing ourselves?
Today’s Gospel invites us to ponder our own behaviour, rather than condemn the Pharisees!
Gospel Acclamation Mt23:9,10
You have one Father, your Father in heaven;
you have one teacher: the Lord Jesus Christ.