Lectio Divina: Matthew 23,1-12
1) OPENING PRAYER
You want us to live our faith
not so much as a set of rules and practices
but as a relationship from person to person
with You and with people.
God, keep our hearts turned to You,
that we may live what we believe
and that we may express our love for You
in terms of service to those around us,
as Jesus did, Your Son,
who lives with You and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
2) GOSPEL READING - MATTHEW 23:1-12
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 Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Today’s Gospel presents the criticism of Jesus against the scribes and the Pharisees of His time. At the beginning of the missionary activity of Jesus, the doctors of Jerusalem went to Galilee to observe Him (Mk 3:22; 7:1). Disturbed by Jesus’ preaching, they had based their attacks on saying that He was possessed (Mk 3:22). All along the three years the popularity of Jesus grew. And at the same time, the conflict between He and the religious authority also grew. The origin of this conflict was the way in which they placed themselves before God. The Pharisees sought their own security, not so much in God’s love toward them, but rather in the rigorous observance of the Law. Before this mentality, Jesus insists on the practice of love which makes the observance of the law relative and gives it its true significance.
Matthew 23:1-3: The root or origin of the criticism: They say but they do not do . Jesus recognizes the authority of the scribes and of the Pharisees. They occupy the chair of Moses and teach the law of God, but they themselves do not observe what they teach. So Jesus tells them: You must, therefore, do and observe what they tell you, but do not do as they do, because they say but do not do! This is a terrible criticism! Immediately, as in a mirror, Jesus shows some aspects of the incoherence of the religious authority.
Matthew 23:4-7: Look in the mirror in order to make a revision of life. Jesus calls the attention of the disciples concerning the incoherent behavior of some doctors of the Law. In meditating on this incoherence, it is helpful to think about ourselves and not about the Pharisees and the scribes of that time already past. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but will not lift a finger to move them; they do their works in order to be admired; they love to take the first places and to be called doctors. The scribes liked to enter into the houses of the widows and to recite long prayers to receive money in exchange! (Mk 12:40).
Matthew 23:8-10): You are all brothers. Jesus orders that we have the contrary attitude. Instead of using the religion and the community as means for self-promotion in order to appear more important before others, He asks not to use the title of Rabbi or Teacher, of Master, Father and Guide because only one is the guide, Christ; only God in Heaven is Father, and Jesus is the Master, the Teacher. You are all brothers. This is the basis of the fraternity which comes from the certainty that God is our Father.
Matthew 23:11-12: The final summary: the greatest must be the servant. This phrase is what characterizes both the teaching and the behavior of Jesus: The greatest among you must be your servant; the one who raises himself up, will be humbled (cfr. Mk 10:43; Lk 14:11; 18:14).
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
In what does Jesus criticize the Doctors of the Law and in what does He praise them?
In what would He criticize me and in what would He praise me?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
'Honor to me is a sacrifice of thanksgiving;
to the upright I will show God's salvation.' (Ps 50,23)