Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 23:1-12

Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time - Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus continues his diatribe against 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 that 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.” Then 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.”

Today these words of Jesus may hit home with us.  After all, don’t we also appreciate the attention, compliments and even praise for the good we do?  Jesus is not saying that compliments are bad; however, Jesus primarily hopes that we will 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? Do you do it simply because it is your duty, your job or your responsibility?  Jesus desires that we do everything 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, or striving to be patient with your children or a co-worker when all you want to do is to scream at them.

The reality is that for most of us life is mundane, repetitive and perhaps boring.  I assume that most of the time, we typically are not saving someone’s life, working with inner city children or serving as a missionary in a third world country.  Yet, we all have daily opportunities to “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 likely will be a 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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