True Discipleship

Matthew 23: 1-12
Rut 2:1-3,8-11;4:13-17 / Ps 128

…do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
(Matthew 23:3)

In seeking Your way, Lord help me
To follow Mary’s example:
To humbly serve that I may be
Worthy to be Your disciple

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:1-12)

Reflection

Our Lord’s message in today’s Gospel passage of Matthew concerns how stewardship and discipleship must be regarded by all His followers. He exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who used their authority to burden their disciples, the Jews with preposterous laws which they themselves cleverly avoided. And yet Jesus urged them to “obey them and do everything they tell you” — if only to practice the virtues of obedience and humility — but not to imitate them, “for they do not practice what they preach.” Jesus set the standard for all His true disciples to follow. He walked His talk, and practiced what He preached. As He was faithful and obedient to the Father’s plan, so must His disciples follow His example of servant leadership, the antithesis of all that the scribes and Pharisees stood for. They were to be humble as the Pharisees were proud; to be obedient to God’s Word, unlike the scribes who circumvented the Mosaic laws according to their interests; and seek to be servants, rather than strive for places of honor or high positions that the scribes and Pharisees desired. The more important our tasks and goals, the more we should assume the role of a servant or slave. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Let each of you humbly consider the others as more important than yourselves” (Phil.2:3).

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like her Son, Jesus, our Blessed Mother Mary exemplified the kind of humility that leads to perfection. Hers was a loyal servant’s heart shown in total obedience to God’s will. Her service entailed great sacrifice, in complete self-giving and humility. Even if she was confused and bewildered by the message of the Angel Gabriel, she submitted to the plan of God in total trust, saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk.1:38). With great sacrifice, she travelled some distance to her cousin Elizabeth to assist her in the pregnancy of her old age. We believe that her attitude of being disposed to humble service is the reason why God the Father exalted her, and made her Queen of heaven and earth. Let us follow the example of Mary who regarded herself as a servant of God, and not be swayed to become disciples of men who proclaim that they are prophets of God.

May we never grow smug in the knowledge that we lead others in our ministry, Lord, because ‘pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Prov.16:18); help us to grow in Your example of humility in service to be worthy of You. Amen.

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