Homily for the thirty-first Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 23:1-12


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.' "





Homily:


"Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.' "


It is surprising to see the scribes and Pharisees teaching principles that they do not want to put into practice themselves! For, today, we are very far from this state of mind. Indeed, the opposite is true: what person would remain in his position, pulpit or office, if the whole world knew of his criminal acts? How many men of politics or religion have we not seen forced to resign or retire because they have committed acts contrary to the requirements of their function?


So we see that things have evolved since the time of Jesus. Is this something good or bad? Would Jesus have liked to dismiss all of these unfaithful teachers in order to replace them with others? Or would Jesus have preferred that these evil teachers convert themselves and finally practice what they have preached? Is it not mercy that the Lord came to bring to the earth? For, ever since the Son of God took flesh of the Virgin Mary, all truth that comes from him, the Son of God, is a bearer of grace!


A holy man of the nineteenth century said, in more or less the following words, "When the word of salvation in Jesus Christ is proclaimed, this word sometimes brings about the salvation of those who hear it, but it always brings about the salvation of he who proclaims it." In other words, even if the preacher were, unfortunately, a sinner, the word of salvation he proclaims to others is a bearer of grace: a grace that sometimes saves those who hear his preaching, but a grace that is always destined to convert and to sanctify he who proclaims the Word of God.


" 'They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.' "


A single notion gathers and unites Christ and those who believe in him: the notion of the mediator. Christ-Man and all the men and women who believe in the Son of God are mediators, united in a single Body, of the unique Word of God. Now, every mediator is at the service of those whom he unites through his mediation: Christ-Man is at the service of the Word of God and of all the men who listen to this Word; similarly, the Church is at the service of the Word of Christ and of all men who listen to the Word of God. Consequently, neither Christ-Man nor the Church is the Master of the Word of God.


The Master, the only Master, is Christ-God, the only Son of God! Christ-Man is at the service of the Word of God; the Church, those who believe in Christ, is at the service of the Word of Christ, who is God. All of us are brothers, from the first, who is Christ-Man (cf. Rm. 8:29), to the last, he who will bring to a close the long series of believers, from Adam and Eve to those who will welcome the Son of God at his Return in Glory at the end of time! All of us are brothers with Christ, servants and mediators of the unique Word of God!


" 'And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.' "


The Pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is called the Holy Father. But the Pope is, above all, the Servant of the Servants of God. And it is only because he is a servant that the Pope is also Father. For he who is a servant of the Word of God is a mediator in the only Mediator, Christ. The servant is but one with Christ the mediator. The servant, by humbling himself in his role as mediator, in fact becomes the first of all, because he is united to Christ, the one and only Mediator. When one is alone, one is always first. Thus, the servant, if he is a mediator with and in Christ, is always first, because he is alone and unique...


"Whoever humbles himself will be exalted."


He who proclaims the Word of God must be the servant of that Word: in believing in this Word that he does not understand, because it surpasses him, he who proclaims the Word lowers and humbles himself before this Word, which is the Son of God. This Word is not his own, it is that of God. Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, he who proclaims the Word of God is lifted up to the highest dignity by making himself a servant of the Word. For there is nothing greater than to serve as an intermediary and mediator to the Word of God, who is Spirit!


May we all, through Mary, be faithful servants of the Word of God, in order that the Father might be glorified in the Son and in his brothers and sisters without number!




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