“Practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men. (Matthew 23:3-5)
Jesus summarizes the life of the Scribes and Pharisees today by saying that they do not practice what they preach. Like these scribes and Pharisees, do I practice what I preach? Am I simply a signboard that points to a particular direction but never goes there? On the other hand, have I become a stumbling block preventing others from going to heaven through my scandalous actions? Is my practice of Christianity merely to attract the attention of others?
Jesus went further to discourage the practice of giving undue worship to religious leaders by saying: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12)
Many Christians have asked me why we priests are addressed as “Father” or “Reverend Father” when Jesus specifically asked us not to call any man on earth “father”? In this passage, Jesus is not against the use of titles, rather He is specifically warning against worshipping human beings. In this context, Jesus is saying, “Call no man on earth your God. You have only One God who is in heaven!”
At the same time, Jesus is telling the religious leaders themselves not to see themselves as gods just because of the respect they enjoy from the people. Jesus is telling us, priests, religious, and pastors that the true hallmark of religion is humility. We are merely servants. We must avoid becoming lords to those that God has placed under our spiritual care.
The story of Ruth and Naomi comes to an end today with the happy union of Ruth and Boaz whom God blessed with a child that eventually became the direct Grandfather of David and subsequently, one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Our responsorial psalm today says it all: ‘Blessed is everyone who FEARS THE LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall EAT THE FRUIT OF THE LABOUR of your hands; you shall BE HAPPY, and it shall BE WELL WITH YOU….’ (Psalm 128:1-6).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me to love you better each day. Amen.
Bible Study: Ruth 2:1-3,8-11,4:13-17, Ps. 128:1-5, Matthew 23:1-12).