Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:1-12

Saturday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus continues his diatribe on the Pharisees. He says to the people: “The scribes and Pharisees do observe the letter of the law completely.” However, Jesus then instructs the people not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is angry with them. He criticizes the Pharisees for the many burdens they place on the people’s shoulders. And they do nothing to relieve the people of these burdens.

Jesus also is critical of their motivation for the good works they do. He believes that the Pharisees “do good” not to help the people but rather to be seen and applauded for their seemingly good actions. In addition, they love having the places of honor in the temple and at banquets. They wear long robes and they like having people defer to them. And they love to be called “Rabbi.” Jesus instructs his listeners: “Do not wish to be called Rabbi.” All are brothers and sisters and they are to be equals.

Jesus then says: “You have only one Father, who is in heaven.” And he adds: “You have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the individuals who humble themselves will be exalted.”

These words of Jesus may hit home with us. After all, don’t we also appreciate attention, compliments and even praise for the good we do? Jesus is not saying that compliments are bad. However, Jesus primarily wants us to look at our motivation for the good that we do. Jesus does want us to do good, to be helpful and caring of others. However, Jesus desires that we do this with the proper motivation: love!

How many times a day do you do something simply because it is expected? Or you do it simply because it is your duty, your job or your responsibility. Jesus desires that every act we do is done in a loving and caring manner, even the activities we prefer not to do. The reality is that almost all of the loving acts we do are pretty small: being attentive to someone who needs attention, helping a neighbor with a job, striving to be patient with your children when you really want to scream at them.

The reality is that for most of us life is mundane, repetitive and perhaps boring. I assume most of us are not typically saving someone’s life, working with inner city children or serving as a missionary in Africa. Yet, we all do good in our own way in our personal, social and professional lives. For us, these acts may seem trivial or insignificant. However, if these acts of good are done with love and care, they may be a great gift to the receiver!

Today I invite you to consciously strive to be loving in your thoughts, words and deeds. You may not only make the people you interact with feel noticed and cared about, you also may find that you experience being more loving, peaceful and cheerful. What a great gift this may be to others and to us!

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