31st Sunday O T Year A – 17
Mal.1:14-2:2, 8-10; 1Thess.2:7b-9, 13; Matt.23:1-12
One of the shared criticisms directed at Catholics by our Protestant fundamentalist brethren especially the Born-again Christian groups (whom as someone called as Born-against Christians), is about the address we give to our Pope as “Holy Father” and the priests as “Fathers”.
They say that this is against the teaching of Christ in the Bible. They cited today’s gospel especially in verse 9 that says: “…do not call anyone your father, only one is your father, the one in heaven.”
If we follow this kind of interpretation, it is an absurd interpretation. If taken literally, the word would forbid us to call our natural father as ‘father.’
What will be the feeling of Mr. So and so if his children would not address him as ‘father’ or papa or daddy. Instead, his children would call his name. Will he be agree? I’m sure he will not.
Maybe he is going to scold or get angry with them especially that for us Asians, we have a great respect for the elders. Then, how are we to call our school, ‘teachers’ if there is only one teacher?
What Christ wants to teach us, is that, our concern should not be after honors, worldly dignity and crave for first places in gatherings.
If we extend our helping hands to others in need, we should not be proud of it that it is coming from us but rather, we should announce that it is coming from God because we don’t have as our own.
We just do our job and not expecting any return. Our expression has to be: “Everything is for the greater glory of God.”
Why Jesus forbids His disciples to use these titles: father and teacher? Even St. Paul called himself as the father of the Corinthians (1Cor.4:15)? It is because these can be abused and misused. It is in the abused sense; these titles are forbidden of being used.
Many used their titles, positions in government and organizations and honors to threaten, to look down other people, to exploit, deprive and oppress other people. What is happening now?
There is abuse of power especially those in the government and you can cite examples even by yourselves.
The message of today’s gospel is a clear warning also to all who hold office and authority in God’s church whether as bishops, priests and deacons or superiors. Instead of being servants of all servants of God, they become their masters.
However, this gospel also applies to all of us who are here. Like for example, the parents used their authority as parents to justify what they are doing instead of listening to their children’s plea.
In other words, it is service that matters. If we want to become great human beings and outstanding Christians, then we must serve the rest.
Our service should take the form of meeting their physical and material needs like: washing or cooking meals for the family and many more. It is a small thing but taken for granted. In the eyes of God, it is the greatest performance we ever have.
Our service should take the form of caring for the emotional and psychological needs of others like offering them companionship when they are down and friendship, speaking words of hope and encouragement, showing acceptance and giving recognition.
Another form of service might be to meet the spiritual and faith needs of others like giving good examples, living simple lifestyles and many more.
What is our feeling now when we hear Jesus criticizing the Pharisees? Are we happy? Are we satisfied or sad and sorrow because like the Pharisees, we are also hit by such criticism?
Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”. It is a call to humble service as Jesus says today. The reason that Jesus was so harsh on the Jewish religious leaders of his time was that they were leading the people astray.
They were the ones who were trained in the study of the Law and the Prophets i.e. the basis of their religion. Instead of “giving glory to the name of the Lord” as Malachi says in today’s first reading, the Pharisees were seeking their own glory.
They wanted the places of honor at banquets, having the front seats at synagogues and all other marks of respect as well as wanting people to call them Rabbi, Teacher, Father.
Jesus is asking us simply to “LET YOUR LIFE TELL GOD’S STORY”. And he tells us how. This may be done as it is said in the end of today’s gospel by serving and being there for others. “The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest”.
This is the good news of today’s gospel since it is possible for any of us. Jesus is inviting each of us to continue to do this in our daily lives and not just priests or religious. If I am the father or mother of a family, am I the best father or mother I can be for my family?
If I am a son or daughter am I the best that I can be in that family. The call is to think of the others. Do not seek to be the center of attention. If I am a priest or sister or bishop, am I the best one I can be in using the talents God gives me in the service of others.
The paradox is that the less we make ourselves the center of attention and serve others, the happier we will be and the more peace and joy we will experience in our lives.
Ultimately it is by realizing this, Jesus went this way before us in his own life that he is now inviting us to follow his way. We read in Jn.14.6 “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE”.
He emptied himself to come amongst us to show God’s total choice of and love for us. He knelt down and washed the apostles’ feet. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. Why? To reveal to others that this is our heavenly Father’s way too.
God the Father is prepared to kneel at our feet and wash them if we will allow him. He will do anything apart from sin for our sakes. God is the ultimate servant for us.
His only concern is our happiness, our joy, and our peace. Can we do anything less for others so as to reveal to them by our lives ‘THIS IS OUR GOD and YOURS TOO!
“Lord, it is not easy to be of service to others. Give us the Holy Spirit so we can show others the kind of God you are – a servant to all. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen”