FR. MIKE’S SATURDAY HOMILY OF THE 20TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I

FR. MIKE’S SATURDAY HOMILY OF THE 20TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I

THEME: TRUE GREATNESS

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

HOMILY: Mt 23:1-12

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,

earthly pleasures heaven Jesus love God

Shun these earthly pleasures

FR. MIKE’S SATURDAY HOMILY OF THE 20TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I

THEME: TRUE GREATNESS

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

 

HOMILY: Mt 23:1-12

Then 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 Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus is always kind, understanding and loving. But not when it comes to the scribes and Pharisees. They are the acknowledged teachers and spiritual leaders of Israel, but Jesus has very acerbic words for them. This is what we hear in the Gospel today.

At the outset, it must be noted that Jesus does not mean to include each and every scribe and Pharisee in His condemnation. There are also many Pharisees who were good and worthy of respect. For instance, Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night in order to learn more and deepen his understanding of Scriptures. He even helped in the burial of Jesus. Another Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, is Gamaliel who was a “teacher of the law, respected by all the people” (Acts 5:34).

Rather, Jesus addresses His condemnation, not so much against specific personalities and groups, as against the wrong attitudes and frame of mind of the people. Unfortunately, the scribes and Pharisees as a group exemplify such undesirable behavior.

Jesus acknowledges their vital role in the community as official teachers of Israel: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” So, in deference to the office they hold, people have to listen and follow what they say. But since they do not ‘walk the talk’, the Lord warns, “Do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

Needless to say, by not doing what they teach, the scribes and Pharisees lose their credibility and moral ascendancy. Their teachings, no matter how authentic and correct, also lose value and effectiveness. An Indian spiritual leader, Sri Chinmoy has another way of putting it: “What you do not use yourself, do not give to others. For example: advice.” For surely, the advice will just be ignored.

The points raised by Jesus against them should serve as a lesson and warning to us all. That is why it is helpful to identify their mistakes so as not to repeat them. Their first mistake is pride. Worse, it is spiritual pride, that is the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. And because of this, it is always so easy for them to condemn others whom they perceive as less worthy than them.

Second, their penchant for the externals. They insist on every minor detail of the letter of law, but they do not mind the spirit behind the law. This gives them endless opportunities to find faults of others and condemn them.
As a natural consequence of this, the third is their desire to be famous and respected. Hence, they take extra efforts to project an honorable and holy image . And this they do through their attire, vestments and titles. They also expect special attention to be given to them: the first row in the synagogue, places of honor at banquets, special salutations.

In summary, for them, everything is just for show. They consciously attract attention to themselves, and take the people’s attention away from God. Definitely, this is what idolatry is all about. Though they are the official teachers of the Law and spiritual leaders of Israel, by their actions and behavior, they ultimately are leading people astray and working against God. Hence, the scathing words of Jesus against them.

Jesus, then, points out the meaning of true greatness: “The greatest among you must be your servant.” And in order to be a genuine and effective servant, one has to be truly humble: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The perfect example of this is no less than the Lord Himself, who “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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