On the Gospel of Matthew 23:1-12
31st Sunday of the Year
The Gospel this week speaks about the difference between ‘to preach’ and ‘to practice’. Jesus is addressing the people and his disciples and tells them that they should respect the authority which the Pharisees had by virtue of ‘the chair of Moses’. By the chair of Moses, Jesus means the authority to explain and interpret the teachings of Moses, or the Law as we can also call it. However, Jesus continues to explain that while respecting the authority of the Pharisees the people should not imitate how they actually apply what they teach to their own lives, as the way they live does not reflect what they teach.
It is very easy, on reading this, to apply the parable to an individual or an institution, for example, the Church. And this, of course, can rightly be done as the Church, or rather the people who make up the Church, have the authority of the Apostles, but are obviously falling short in all kinds of ways.
But while it is very easy to look at others, we should first of all look at ourselves. After all, it is really us who make up the body of the Church, and if we feel that the body has its shortcomings we should first of all start with reforming ourselves. It is therefore very important to actually take the teaching of the Church to heart and not to treat it as an external set of rules! Instead, by pondering the mysteries of our faith, by actively searching out the truth and looking for an encounter with the Word Himself, we will actually discover that living according to the precepts of God actually sets us free and makes our lives much more meaningful. This is the power of the Gospel, through the encounter with God, we actually discover what we are really about, it causes a conversion of heart and our lives slowly become grace filled.
The great thing about this is not only that it is exciting and joyful, but we will also start to be a light for the people around us. If we are living our lives to the full, and are filled with joy, other people around us will notice this and it will rub off. Instead of a comment like Gandhi made when he said ‘I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians’, we will once more get the reaction as was found in early times when the pagans said ‘look how those Christians love each other’ which was a result of the charity present in the community.
Our faith is not about observing externals, not about following a book of rules. No, we are ‘set free from the Law’ as St. Paul says! Instead of obeying a set of rules we can choose to get to know our God personally, and if we do, the only result can be a change of heart, an internal change that will shine out of us and that light will be enlightening the people around us, too.