Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Share On

Memorial of St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem. Prayer for Jerusalem and for peace in the Holy Land

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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 raised up.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Jesus is in the temple, place par excellence of the encounter with God, of the sacrifice that brings communion with the Most High. It is the last speech addressed to the crowds and Jesus lashes out violently against the “scribes and Pharisees.” They are not true shepherds of the people of the Lord. But Jesus, rather than directly attacking their doctrine – which he says is right and should be kept – lashes out against their behaviour, which is away from the true tradition. With their conduct, the scribes and the Pharisees manifest a cold and empty religiosity, made of exterior practices only - they widen their phylacteries (small cases containing rolls of parchment where some Bible passages are written, and which are tied at the left arm and on the forehead) but they do not comply with them. Phylacteries’ origin is evocative: the Word of God had to be remembered (forehead) and put into practice (arm). But it was just an exterior practice to the Pharisees. Jesus also says that they “lengthen their fringes”, i.e. braids of fabric fitted with a drawstring, purple and blue at the four corners of the outer garment. Jesus also wore them. But the ostentatious exterior kills the inner meaning of these signs, which should be a sign of listening to the word of God and obedience to it, as prescribed by Deuteronomy (6:4-9). A similar reflection should be done on their habit to search for places of honour at banquets and the first seats in the synagogues. Finally, Jesus enters into controversy with the ‘academic’ and official titles that scribes and priests demanded by the people and by the disciples. Among those, he emphasizes the most known, “rabbi”, meaning “my teacher”. Even in this case Jesus does not reject the mission of teaching; rather he emphasizes the uniqueness of God’s Word. All believers are subject to it, and should receive it with faith, communicate and live it always and wherever. Here is the origin of God’s paternity on our lives. The Gospel, and not our words or programs, should have authority over life. The temptation to accommodate the Gospel to our traditions and those of the world is looming. Jesus has already stigmatized this temptation, and he asks us to do the same. We will discover that true joy and true greatness lie in being servants to the Word of God, that is listening to it and communicating it to those we meet.