31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Mt. 23:1-12 – Nov 5, 2017

You have but one Father in heaven and one master, the Christ

There is a story about the great wise theologian Saint Bonaventure. He had been a professor in Paris and at different universities, and also general superior of the Franciscan Order. When the Holy Father appointed him bishop and cardinal at the same time, the pope sent his monsignors and secretaries to bring him the letters of appointment and the capello. When they went to the monastery looking for him, they found him in the kitchen washing dishes. Saint Bonaventure is the kind of humble father and teacher we need.

Once in a little town a man was awarded a medal for his humility, but later on he was stripped of it. He had begun to wear it proudly. Some of us are like him. The example of Saint Bonaventure reminds us, when we think we are humble, we are not. Many of us even have the bad habit of being proud of our humility.

Not because we call our natural male parent “father”, or the person who instructs us in school “teacher”, we contradict what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel today, “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 problem exists when we try to understand what our Master has told us in a literal way. Jesus wants to teach us that no one can take the place that belongs to God in our lives. Only Jesus is our way, our truth and our life; only Jesus can be the teacher of these values. Only God is the Father and creator of all human beings.

If we listen and obey Jesus´ teaching in the Gospel, we acknowledge him as the teacher and master of our lives. We pray to God as Our Father, not only in the Lord´s Prayer, but throughout the whole celebration of the Eucharist, and as well in our daily prayers, answering what God tells us today through the prophet Malachi: “A great King am I, says the Lord of hosts”.

Celebrating the “Spirit of Assisi” that then Pope John Paul II celebrated with 70 leaders of religions around the world, and Pope Benedict XVI celebrated again in Assisi with over 200 world religious leaders, we have together proclaimed with them, “God exists”, but sometimes we live as if God did not exist.

Children put on a mask on Halloween and pretend they are somebody else, and it is good for them to use their imagination; but pretending to be somebody else is not acceptable for adults as disciples of Jesus Christ. God is not happy with us people imagining that we are great followers of Christ. We are not called to appear to be a holy people. We are called to be in fact a holy people.

In the gospel Jesus teaches us to be honest and humble. He gives the example of the Pharisees. He says: “All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.” According to Jesus, these Pharisees went to all the important banquets and places so that everyone else could see how important they were. That is all they really wanted. Jesus calls them hypocrites, and tells us: “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” They put on the mask of holiness, but they were not holy.

We avoid being hypocrite if we take responsibility for our own lives rather than entrust it to others or to put the blame on others for our mistakes. We can not pretend to be a follower of a person, be it a priest or a star of the movies or TV shows, or whomever and let that person determine our lives. We must take responsibility for our own faith lives. Call no man "father" or "master" or "teacher" means call no one an idol; if we have an idol, then we do not take responsibility for what we do. We call our priests father in the way they are like head and teachers of our faith in our families and the church, but we do not give our priests the responsibility for our lives. We entrust our lives to God and God only. Only Christ can be our master and guide, and we are his followers.

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