Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preach what you practice

The most persuasive gospel passage is the exemplary life

Matthew 23:1-12
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."

The religious scholars and Pharisees in today’s readings are competent teachers in God's Law. For the most part, we won't go wrong in following their teachings. Yet, we are told to be careful about mirroring their actions. Although the Pharisees and religious scholars can talk a good line, they don't live out their words. They do not absorb the teachings of Moses into their hearts and reflect it through their behavior. Morosely, the Pharisees and religious scholars are not the only ones to fall short of reflecting God’s love to others. I know this because I am one who has fallen short.

Too often we put ourselves, or get put by others, onto a pedestal like the Pharisees because we can talk a good talk. We then can forget that we all have our shortcomings. Or at least we want to forget, so we don’t have to acknowledge to others we are not as good of a teacher as we come across to be. We must remember we all have a single Teacher, and we ALL are the classmates, continually learning and making mistakes.

"The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." -Matthew 23:11-12

We all want to stand out; to know that we are different. But let us all step down from our pedestal and learn to become a servant. God is constantly asking us, "What is more important, your pride or your relationship with me?" If we are willing to put our pride aside, our hearts will finally be filled with God’s grace and love. Only then can that love be reflected out onto others by our behavior.

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