The Greatness Christ Offers

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Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

 

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.”

 

Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to open my heart in prayer so that I will be won over by your plan of greatness through service—of triumphing through humble, merciful love. 

 

Encountering Christ:

 

  1. Don’t Be Called “Rabbi” and “Master”: Both the word “Rabbi” in Hebrew and the word “Master” as it is used here are words that we would translate as “Teacher.” In Jesus’s time, “Don’t call anyone teacher except the Christ,” was a way of saying that the most important, the greatest teacher in life, was to be the Christ (the Messiah). No other teacher was as important as Christ, and Christ most deserved to be called “Teacher.” Jewish people in Jesus’s time certainly called many people “Rabbi” and “Master”; the Christians continued to do so afterward, but they acknowledged that Christ is our primary Teacher and Master.

 

  1. Don’t Be Called “Father”: Some Christians citing this passage object to calling priests “Father,” yet they continue to use the word for their own fathers, so what does Jesus mean here? He means that all fathers have Someone to measure up to—that the person who really deserves the title “Father” is the heavenly Father and that the others only deserve the title insofar as they resemble the heavenly Father. He is the one who is truly Father. This is a challenge for both priests and the fathers of families. We are called to imitate the merciful love of God the Father in our vocation.

 

  1. To Be Great, You Must Serve: All around us, we see people who seek to be great by dominating others. This is a temptation everyone feels at some point—to increase our power, fame, wealth, etc., by forcing others to accept our will. God wants us to do his will, and his will involves serving others as he did. Christ our King humbly healed, blessed, and served others his entire life, and ultimately died for us on the Cross. To be great, we do not dominate—we serve, as did our King. 

 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, instead of hardening my heart to do my own will, I want to open my heart more to you and to others. You offered your life for me and I am often overwhelmed by your love. I am grateful for this. Remembering your sacrifice helps me to want to love more, even though sometimes loving hurts.

 

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will try to forgive when a conflict arises, and love more instead of hardening my heart to defend myself.

 

For Further Reflection: No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk through Christ’s Passion by Edward Sri.

 

Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.

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