Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.
And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Many people confuse authority and power with the ability to influence or control others. Frequently we consider a person to be important if he or she is a politician, a player of professional sports, a musician, a TV or movie star, or is very wealthy. Often we do not look closely at the character of the celebrity or “important” person. Is the person honest and trustworthy? Does the person care about and help others? Is the person working for the Kingdom of God and all humanity, or only for selfish ends?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains how we should understand authority and power. To put it simply, authority and power are not about the ability to influence or control others, but rather about serving others. Jesus cautions us not to be like the scribes and Pharisees, religious people who were hypocritical and liked to hold places of honor and have titles. They preached and spoke the correct words but did not live them out. They liked to be thought of well by others, but would not lift a finger to help them.
Jesus emphasized that his disciples—including us—should be prayerful and honest. We should not take titles or think of ourselves as better than others. Jesus wants us to remember that a title can separate us from others. A title can also lead us to think we are better than others. Jesus underscores the fact that all human beings are equal and children of God. Human beings have only one teacher and master: Jesus the Christ. With the knowledge that all human beings are equal and no one is master over another, Jesus wants us to discern that the greatest among us must be the servant of all.
What ways can I be a better servant of God and God’s people today?
—Br. John Moriconi, S.J., Provincial’s Secretary, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits
Lord, regardless of our circumstances, despite our status in life, or other’s perspective about us, we believe that you call us to “greatness.” As we move through our day, guide us to be attentive to those “great” moments when we realize the opportunity to serve another. And when our day comes to a close, inspire us, Lord, to evaluate the merits of the day by answering one overarching question: How well did I serve today?”
—The Jesuit Prayer Team