In Today’s Gospel Jesus tells us “to practice what we preach”
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.’
‘Practise what you preach’. ‘Walk it as you talk it’. These are sayings we use to highlight that words and actions in our Christian life should harmonise.
‘Love is shown in deeds, not words’ is the ending of the Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
This is the criticism of Jesus about some of the Pharisees: they preached intolerable burdens of the law, and did not observe it themselves, nor help anyone to do so.
We find out how to be a follower of Jesus by watching him in the gospel, by hearing his word, and by living a life of love and compassion as best we can. We learn from how to relate to others by how he does this himself.
Every religion can get lost in the visible signs of it. Titles in parish or a diocese can take over from the service requested from us. Shows of piety can lead to the self rather than to God. All in our religion should come from the life of Jesus and return to him. ‘You have one teacher, the Christ’.
Maybe today we pay tribute to the teachers among us, especially those who have taught us about our faith and guided us in the ways of faith.
Lord, teach me your ways, your truth and guide me into your life.
Introductory Prayer: Jesus Christ, where else can I turn each day but to you? One day, I will make that final turn to you, and it will last for all eternity. Yet as in everything else, you set the pace, you take the initiative, and you are the protagonist. You will turn and look my way first and I, as I strive daily to do, will respond and gaze back into your eyes. This moment of prayer is a rehearsal for that final turn to you. Amen.
Petition: Lord Jesus, teach me to be humble as you were humble.
1. True Greatness: Jesus Christ, the lord of history and the world, came to show us what it means to be humble. His divinity did not keep him aloof, but rather he emptied himself, stripping himself of all glory to serve us humbly, eventually dying for us on the cross. Such humility is astonishing. Who could ever imitate such lowliness? We have trouble tolerating even minor offenses against our person or reputation. Christ voluntarily assumed our human nature and subjected himself to shame, insult, and torture to save us.
2. Authority Not Their Own: The Pharisees were in a position of authority, having been lifted up from the mere dust from which God made them to the noble position of arbiters and interpreters of the law. For that reason, Christ tells his listeners to obey what they say – not on account of their authority, but because of the authority given them by God. However, many of the Pharisees were more interested in the honors and privileges of their position than in being the link between souls and God. Contrast their example with the model of humility set by Christ.
3. The Promise of Freedom: Christ came to earth to liberate us. He freed us from sin and death and has given meaning to human suffering. He did this not in a proud way but as a humble servant. As a lamb led to slaughter, he took upon his shoulders the punishment for our sins. Far from coming to judge us, he came to free us and let the judgment fall on himself. How does my concept of freedom mesh with that of Christ setting us free from sin? Am I convinced that the freest person in this life is the person who has strived to form virtue and thus can joyfully and easily choose to do good and not evil? Do I humbly ask Our Lord for the grace to act rightly knowing I cannot do anything good without his help?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, Jesus Christ, you chose the path of humble service to attract souls to your heavenly Father. Help me continue the work of calling souls to him. Remind me that my proud behavior can do nothing to gain these souls. Inspire me with your grace so that I may love you more than myself.
Resolution: I will refrain from boasting about my achievements. Instead, today I will seek to praise three other people for something they have done well.