Tuesday - Lent Time
1) Opening prayer
you want us to live our faith
not so much as a set of rules and practices
but as a relationship from person to person
with you and with people.
God, keep our hearts turned to you,
that we may live what we believe
and that we may express our love for you
in terms of service to those around us,
as Jesus did, your Son,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 23, 1-12
Then addressing the crowds and his
disciples Jesus said, 'The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses.
You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by
what they do, since they do not practise what they preach.
They tie up heavy burdens and lay
them on people's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!
Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader headbands
and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and
the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted respectfully in the market
squares and having people call them Rabbi. 'You, however, must not allow
yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all
brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one
Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called
teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be
your servant. Anyone who
raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be
Today’s Gospel presents the criticism of Jesus against the Scribes and the
Pharisees of his time. At the beginning of the missionary activity of Jesus,
the Doctors of Jerusalem went to Galilee to observe him (Mk 3, 22; 7, 1). Disturbed
by Jesus’ preaching, they had based their calumny saying that he was possessed
(Mk 3, 22). All along the three years the popularity of Jesus grew. And at the
same time, the conflict between he and the religious authority also grew. The
origin of this conflict was the way in which they placed themselves before God.
The Pharisees sought their own security, not so much in God’s love toward them,
but rather in the rigorous observance of the Law. Before this mentality, Jesus
insists on the practice of love which makes the observance of the law relative
and gives it its true significance.
Matthew 23, 1-3: The root or origin of the criticism: “They say but they do
not do”. Jesus recognizes the authority of the Scribes and of the
Pharisees. They occupy the chair of Moses and teach the law of God, but they
themselves do not observe what they teach. So Jesus tells them: “You must,
therefore, do and observe what they tell you, but do not do as they do, because
they say but do not do!” This is a terrible criticism! Immediately, like in a
mirror, Jesus shows some aspects of the incoherence of the religious authority.
Matthew 23, 4-7: Look in the mirror in order to make a revision of life. Jesus
calls the attention of the disciples concerning the incoherent behaviour of
some doctors of the Law. In meditating on this incoherence, it is convenient to
think not in the Pharisees and the Scribes of that time already past, but
rather in ourselves and in our incoherence: they tie up heavy burdens and lay
them on people’s shoulders, but will not lift a finger to move them; they do
their works in order to be admired; they love to take the first places and to
be called doctors. The Scribes liked to enter into the houses of the widows and
to recite long prayers to receive money in exchange! (Mk 12, 40).
Matthew 23, 8-10): You are all brothers. Jesus orders that we have the
contrary attitude. Instead of using the religion and the community as means for
self-promotion in order to appear as being more important before others, he
asks not to use the title of Rabbi or Teacher, of Master, Father and Guide
because only one is the Guide, Christ; only God in Heaven is Father, and Jesus
is the Master, the Teacher. You are all brothers. This is the basis of the
fraternity which comes from the certainty that God is our Father.
Matthew 23, 11-12: The final summary: the greatest must be the servant. This
phrase is what characterizes both the teaching and the behaviour of Jesus: “The
greatest among you must be your servant; the one who raises himself up, will be
humbled” (cfr. Mk 10, 43; Lk 14, 11; 18, 14).
4) Personal questions
In what does Jesus criticize the Doctors of the Law and in what does he praise
them? In what would he criticize me and in what would he praise me?
Have you already seen in the mirror?
5) Concluding Prayer
'Honour to me is a sacrifice of
to the upright I will show God's
salvation.' (Ps 50,23)