March 3, 2015

Gospel MT 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.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus sets forth a comparison between the vice of pride and the virtue of humility.
The Pharisees in their pride were constantly concerned and aware of how they appeared to others. Today we might say of such a person, “They’re always putting on a show” or “They talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk.”
He cautioned his followers to listen to the words of the Pharisees but not to follow their example, to instead be humble.
My favorite definition of humility comes from C. S. Lewis:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
At the entrance to My Brother’s Keeper, visitors are greeted by a life-size sculpture depicting Jesus washing the feet of Peter at the Last Supper.
In the Gospel of John 13: 8-9, we learn that Peter was reluctant to have Jesus wash his feet, pridefully saying, “Lord, you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus replied, “If I cannot wash your feet, you can have no part in me.”
Peter, of course, relented and “humbly” submitted to having his feet washed.
Each day at My Brother’s Keeper, the poor also swallow their pride and “humbly submit” to having us serve them.
So many of us gladly carry a bed or a box of food into the house of a needy person. But, could we as easily humbly stand by while someone carried food or a bed to our children?
“To the extent that it is true that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive, it is equally true that it is more difficult to receive than it is to give.” Jim Orcutt