Matthew 23: 1-12
Ez 43: 1-7 / Ps 85: 9-14
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
When our world seems to be crumbling,
Or all our prayers are denied,
Remember, a little humbling
Will keep us from the sin of pride.
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “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)
Our Lord teaches in today’s Gospel passage of Matthew how stewardship must be regarded by all His followers. He exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who used their authority to burden 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’s Gospel speaks eloquently about many things that we, leaders in the renewal, may find useful in the course of our service to the Lord. The first is: do we lead by example? As head of a ministry, do we put in more effort, time and resources into our service without counting the cost? Or are we forever harping on the load that we are carrying? The second question we must ask ourselves is: Who are we trying to please? Have we joined this Community because we seek recognition for our efforts or acceptance from our peers? Do we feel offended when our contributions have not been acknowledged? Do we feel slighted when some brother or sister is chosen for some service in which we feel we are more qualified? Finally, let’s ask ourselves this vital question: Do I want to be a leader because I want to lead, or is it because in imitation of Christ, I want to be the servant of all?
Teach me, Lord, to be meek and humble, let Your blood on the cross wash away all my pride, self-importance, and the need for recognition. If I should be unfairly insulted in any way, let me respond with forgiveness and love. If I should be asked to perform a task I consider below my station, let me rejoice in the opportunity of growing in Your grace of humility. Be my Model always, Lord, that I may be worthy of Your commission. Amen.
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