31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10 | 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13 | Matthew 23: 1-12
If the American country singer, Tim McGraw, was composing songs in the time of Jesus, I believe his song “Humble and Kind” would illuminate today’s gospel. He sings, “When the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.” And… “When you get where you’re going, don’t forget, turn back around. Help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind.”
Jesus, in the gospel, critiques the scribes and the Pharisees, religious leaders of the day, who were authorized interpreters of Mosaic Law. He draws attention to the narrow, burdensome way they taught the law. Jesus cautions that their main motivation for leadership is attachment to privileges.
Finally, Jesus points out the incongruence between what they preached and practiced. They put on a show, but they weren’t the genuine article. They gave clear directions about the road to take, but they weren’t good in traveling there themselves. They burdened others with details and minutiae while they themselves only went as far as looking good. In short, they weren’t being humble and kind. They were hypocrites.
The scriptures speak not only to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day but to all believers. How often do we fall short of the ideals we profess, teach, and attempt to live? We all need help to live with humble hearts for it is humility, not pride, that marks us as faithful disciples of Jesus.
The greatest in God’s reign is the one who serves others with great love and humility. Titles and rank are of no importance in God’s eyes, and they should not be in our eyes. We are called to serve and share with others as sisters and brothers of the same God. We are invited to integrate faith and life each day in our interactions with each other.
We are invited to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy. Lack of compassion, acting unjustly, walking over others to succeed, false piety, and arrogant pride are not part of Jesus’ vision for his followers. Jesus offers an alternative way for his community: respect for others, attention to weaker members, compassion for the sinner, and continual forgiveness. In Jesus’ vision, everyone in the Christian community leads through serving the rest.
And, in the words of Tim Mc Graw, we are called to be humble and kind.
Sr. Mary Ann Collins, OP