Homily for the thirty-first Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 23:1-12
Canon Dr. 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.» "
" «Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.» "
When Jesus pronounces these words: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mt. 23:12), he is two days away from being arrested, in order to be condemned to death, death on the Cross. "And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name..." (Phil. 2:8-9)
On the Cross of Calvary, Jesus humbled himself, in order to be exalted by the Father, in the Spirit, on the day of the Resurrection! We too are called by Christ to participate in his Passion, to add each day's little pains and troubles to the sufferings of Christ, to complete what might be lacking in the Passion of Christ (cf. Col. 1:24), in order to share in his Resurrection!
When the Church acts in this way, she is truly in her place: at the side of Christ! The Church is not Christ, for the Church is not God and Man, but rather solely man, or woman. The Church is not Christ, for she is his Body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:27). That is, the Church continues Christ, she prolongs him in a way, she makes him present in time until the end of time: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt. 18:20)
Christ is one person, and the Church is composed of persons, men and women. Now, a person is, intrinsically, absolutely incommunicable: Peter is Peter, and he is not Paul, just as Paul is Paul and not Peter. So Christ and the Church, despite their intimate relationship, have always been seen, by mystical and spiritual authors, as each others' spouses: Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, and the Church is the Bride of Christ.
It is in this sense, as husband and wife, that the Church is the helper of Christ: Christ, the new Adam, has found for himself in the Church a new Eve, "a helper fit for him" (Gen. 2:20). So the place of the Church, and her function, can never consist in taking the place of Christ, but rather in helping him! The Church transmits to the men and women of the whole world the words of Christ, words that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, penetrate the hearts of men of good will... "While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word." (Acts 10:44)
" «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.» "
"He who is greatest among you shall be your servant." Is this not the title that has always been taken by the Popes, those who have accepted to represent Christ and thus to be the greatest among the brothers of Christ? Servant, Servant of the servants of God: among us that is the greatest title! Ever in the service of the Word, the Pope is but a simple intermediary between Christ and the Church. "I am a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," declared Pope Benedict XVI on the day of his election.
When we speak of an intermediary, the name of Mary, and Mary-Mediatrix in particular, is not far from our lips... Mary was at the foot of the Cross, a witness to the humbling of her Son... But She was standing, already waiting for the hour of the Resurrection! May Mary help us to be faithful servants of her Son, and may She prepare our heart to receive the Bread of eternal Life!