The Truth

Scripture Reading

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.”
(Matthew 23:1-12)

Scripture Study

23:2 Moses’ seat: This may be an actual “chair”, like those used in later synagogues, or only a symbol of teaching authority. The Pharisees thus preach the Mosaic Law with authority, but their failure to practice its “weightier matters” (23:23) should not be followed by others.

23:5 their phylacteries: Small leather boxes containing Scripture verses. These are tied to the forearm and forehead while praying (Deut 6:8; 11:18). Making them broad, the Pharisees sought to parade their piety for public recognition.

23:7 rabbi: A Hebrew word meaning “my great one” and a title for revered Jewish teachers (Jn 1:38).

23:9 call no man your father: Jesus uses hyperbole to post a warning that no one should pridefully desire honorific titles. His words are not meant literally. The NT writers elsewhere use father for natural fathers (Heb 12:7–11) and spiritual fathers in the Church (1 Cor 4:15; Philem 10). ● The spiritual fatherhood of New Covenant priests is an extension of its application to Old Covenant priests (Judg 17:10; 18:19).

23:11. greatest among you must be your servant: The Pharisees were greedy for honor and recognition: our Lord insists that every form of authority, particularly in the context of religion, should be exercised as a form of service of others; it must not be used to indulge personal vanity or greed. “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

23:12. whoever humbles himself: A spirit of pride and ambition is incompatible with being a disciple of Christ. Here our Lord stresses the need for true humility, for anyone who is to follow him. The verbs “will be humbled”, “will be exalted” have “God” as their active agent. Along the same lines, St James preaches that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). And in the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin explains that the Lord “has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree [the humble]” (Lk 1:52).

Scripture Reflection

Jesus comes to teach the Truth; in fact, he is the Truth (John 14:6). As a teacher, therefore, he is absolutely unique and unparalleled. The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world, and his resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfillment of revelation. Hence for Christians the crucifix is one of the most sublime and popular images of Christ the Teacher.

These considerations are in line with the great traditions of the Church and they all strengthen our fervor with regard to Christ, the Teacher who reveals God to man and man to himself, the Teacher who saves, sanctifies and guides, who lives, who speaks, rouses, moves, redresses, judges, forgives, and goes with us day by day on the path of history, the Teacher who comes and will come in glory.

– Saint Pope John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.