Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus respects the position of the scribes and Pharisees. He encouraged the people to observe their teachings because they held places of religious authority. But Jesus also taught His disciples not to follow the poor example of the religious leaders because they didn’t practice what they preached. They did everything to be seen, but their hearts were empty.
There is much that we can learn from this reading. As a religious leader in the Church, this reading calls me to deeper holiness. I pray to God that I am not a leader who teaches one thing and practices another. Certainly I am a sinner, but this reading calls me to fall to my knees and beg for God’s grace to be a faithful follower before I can be an effective leader.
We are all called to respect those who are in positions of authority – whether that be religious or secular. Jesus taught us to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God”. Our culture, in general, has lost respect for anyone. We used to respect our elders. We used to respect religious leaders. We used to respect our president. However, the sins of a few have tarnished the image of everyone.
I think we need to once again teach our children the importance of respect for our elders, priests, pastors and leaders. At the same time, all those who are in leadership positions need to look deep into our hearts.
Am I living the life that God has called me to?
Do I have a double life – one in the public eye and another in my private life?
Do I ask others to do things that I am unwilling to do?
Jesus calls us to humble service and to lay down our lives for others. He showed us the way. The King of the Universe washed the feet of His followers. The Creator of the World willingly laid down His life on the cross for me and for you.
How am I following His example?
Am I truly His disciple?