Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
The Lord is the only Master
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’. As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Mt 23,1-12
The opposition of Jesus’ towards the scribes and pharisees attitudes goes through the entire gospel and it is radical. Today he deals with them on their own ground, showing to the crowd and to the disciples the inconsistency between what they say and what they do. He denounces, by no uncertain terms, their public behavior, always driven by ambition and by the seeking of prestige and privileges and how all of this is consumed in a continuous succession of injustices covered with fake religiosity: “They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi'”. Today it is the last teaching of Jesus to the crowd before of the passion, but it is addressed especially to the disciples, where a spiritual careerism was already beginning to spread through. It is not only a condemnation of the scribes and pharisees – they will disappear very soon with the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem -, it is equally so against the political and religious leaders of any time, because all the institutions are subject to the temptation of the vainglory, of the prestige and of the privileges. It is also an attack addressed to the family, particularly that of today, where too many parents impart to their children an education which they subsequently belie by their behavior. We are talking about the education of feelings like love, respect, loyalty and forgiveness. The only way to avoid falling in this contradiction is to put all of us, although with different roles, to follow the Lord, “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. You have but one Master and you are all brothers”.