Sunday, October 29, 2023
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Gospel Mt 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."
Check Yo' Religion Before You Wreck Yo' Religion!
Upon Reflection: Here's the scene: You're just about to hop into bed on a Saturday night after setting your alarm clock to wake you up for church in the morning, when out of the blue, God appears in your bedroom. God says, "Just so you know...I don't really care if you go to church tomorrow. In fact, it doesn't make a lick of difference to me whether or not you do anything religious at all for the rest of your life. I'm still going to love and accept you just as much as I love and accept every other part of my Creation." Then before you can ask any questions, God vanishes from your site.
If this were to really happen to you, what would you do about that alarm clock? Would you turn it off so as to sleep in and skip going to church or would you keep the alarm set and still practice your religion?
If you are the type that would turn off your alarm clock and never do anything religious again, then your religion has failed you. It means that you view your religion as more burdensome than liberating. It weighs you down more than it gives you wings. It means that the practice of your religion in the past had more to do with negative obligation based on fear than it did with positive obligation based on desire.
This is exactly what Jesus is referring to in the first part of today's Gospel. The religion that the scribes and the Pharisees (and the Sadducee's too even though they are not mentioned here) insist that all the people practice in order to keep their covenant with God was more rule-based than love-based. It was more of a chore for the everyday Jew to practice his or her religion than it was a joy. Simply put, the first part of today's Gospel challenges all religion (not just Judaism) to check itself before it wrecks itself! If practicing religion is more of a chore than a joy, then the practice is flawed and ought to be loosened.
The second part of the Gospel is also a warning about religion. Jesus is claiming that anyone who practices religion in such a way that it calls attention to oneself (i.e. "Hey everybody, look how pious I am!") is not practicing authentic religion at all. True religion for Jesus is religion that serves others and lifts them up. True religion is practiced with humility. That is how our covenant with God is truly realized.
Personally, I really do think that God has no interest whatsoever as to whether or not I am religious, yet I will still set that alarm and practice my religion because when I practice it in its purist sense, there is no burden on me to perform, just a joy within me to humbly serve!