Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Memorial of Shabbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minorities in Pakistan, a Christian, killed by terrorists because of his commitment in seeking pace and dialogue in 2011.


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

The Gospel passage is divided in two parts: in the first, Jesus lashes out against the "scribes and Pharisees" and accuses them not to be the true shepherds of the people of God. With their behaviour they oppose the faith they profess and impose on people "heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them." They do everything they can to show off. They love widening their phylacteries - small boxes containing rolls of parchment containing biblical passages, which are tied to the left arm (to act on those words) and the forehead (to remember what is written) - but they do not act on what they contain. This had become just an exterior practice and the scribes and Pharisees often betrayed the very contents of the words that were guarded in them. Jesus continues to accuse that they "lengthen their fringes", that is, the braids of fabric fitted with a purple and blue string attached to the four corners of the outer garment, but they do not live according to their inner meaning. It is written: "You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them" (Num 15:39). Jesus wore them too, but the Pharisees lengthened them without growing in mercy. This is why Jesus tells the crowd to practice what they teach but not what they do. A similar analysis is to be made of their attitude of seeking the places of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues. In the second part of the passage, Jesus takes issue with the "academic" and official titles that scribes and priests demanded from the people and their disciples. Among the titles, Jesus emphasizes the most well-known, "rabbi", that is "teacher." Jesus emphasizes the absolute primacy of God's Word. All believers are subject to it and should welcome it with faith, communicate it with generosity, and live it in a radical way, always and everywhere. We will discover that true joy and true greatness lie in being servants of the Word of God, that is, listening to it with faith and communicating it to all till the ends of the earth; imitating Jesus who is gentle and humble of heart.