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Matthew 23:1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Matthew 23:1-12
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Jesus does not take issue with how the Pharisees live but he sees how they have become distracted from God by thinking using human measures and scales. Could it be that I am sometimes misled by wanting my way, by establishing my kingdom instead of seeking the reign of Go
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    • Religion can be heavy going! Jesus came to lighten our religious loads and focus on loving and serving others. We can load religious burdens and expectations on others, even in our judgements on them. Prayer is a time of growing in humility and joy before the God who calls us in the name of Jesus who came to serve.
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    • Passages in Saint Matthew like this one have led to anti-Jewish sentiments, hatred and persecution. But Jesus’ criticisms are valid for religious leaders anywhere who lose sight of the ideal of service of their people.
    • ‘They do all their deeds to be seen by others’. What motivates my actions, especially my charitable actions? Does my left hand know what my right hand is doing? Is it all about how it looks, or about how it is? Do I ensure that my good deeds get known in the right places?
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    • Hypocrisy means play-acting, being untrue to oneself. Jesus’ harshest words are reserved for this vice. He sums it up very succinctly as ‘They do not practise what they preach’. Do I?
    • It is easy to see the hypocrisy of others, particularly of those in authority, but I need to be constantly vigilant about my own deceptions, the small lies I tell. I can change only myself. Lord, make me live transparently in the truth.
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    • Jesus, you gave the religious leaders of your day a hard time. But how do you find me? Do I play games to make people think that I am important? How much do I value my public image? Do I misuse my authority? Help me instead to be a humble servant to the needy, just like you.
    • Jesus tells us that Christians should seek simply to serve rather than to get high titles. If I work all day in the service of others, then I am close to the Son of God who wanted only to be a servant. If Jesus were looking for a job, he would choose a service occupation, not a high status role. The pope is called to be the servant of the servants of God!
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    • Religious leaders live riskily. I pray for them; that they may never be distracted by human honour or forget who it is they serve.
    • I think of what it would be like for me to start again, to assume the lowest place, to really take to heart what Jesus says about humility. I begin my prayer by asking God for the help I need, humbly and sincerely.
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    • What is my religion to me? Wings to lift me or a weight to drag me down? A matter of love or of law? Jesus offers rest and relief to those who labour and are burdened. Can I recognize myself in the Pharisee - the Pharisee in me?
    • Jesus' disciples are not to make a big display of religion nor are they to seek honourable titles like 'father' and 'teacher' and 'rabbi'. Our teacher is God, and the true disciples learns only from God. We find very often in Jesus a dismissal of ostentatious religion. He calls on his followers to be humble. Our church is to be a humble church, as we are to be in our dealings with each other. For this we need prayer which inserts us daily into the mystery of being loved and called by God in Jesus Christ.
    • An adult is often told to ‘chill out' by a younger person. We can easily think of people who are puffed up with their own praise and a sort of pomposity about themselves. We don't like that in others; it may be a bit in each of us. To realise that we are totally dependent on God for life and love is a humbling realisation. Prayer at its best keeps us humble, chilled out with the warmth of God's love!
    • Jesus cautions the disciples against an easy rejection of the Pharisees; you are not to reject them outright but are to be discerning and wise. I ask God to help me to resist any fundamentalist rejection of others and to help me to appreciate good wherever I find it.
    • There may seem to be a contradiction between obedience and independence. I pray that I may have the humility to imitate, to receive instruction and to follow even as I accept the dignity that God gives me by speaking in love directly to my heart.