A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 49)
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 30, 2005
“Only One Is Your Master”
Mal 1:14b – 1:2b, 8-10 // I Thes 2:7b-9, 13 // Mt 23:1-12
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
The Pauline Family, which consists of five religious congregations and five aggregated Institutes of which I am a member, celebrates the solemn feast of Jesus Christ the Divine Master on the last Sunday of October. It is very providential that the special Gospel reading of this Pauline feast of the Divine Master (Mt 23:1-10), which falls on the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time this year, is basically the same Gospel text proclaimed in the liturgy of the universal Church (Mt 23:1-12) that particular Sunday. I believe that this is a special grace given to the Pauline Family so that the members may contemplate more intimately the lovable figure of Christ the Master, in union with the entire Church.
In today’s Gospel, the evangelist Matthew gathers into one place many of Jesus’ strong criticisms of the scribes and Pharisees. The basic criticisms are against the general strictness of their interpretation of the Law and their vanity and hypocrisy. Eugene Maly comments: “Because of the strong deception of Pharisees here, the evil of hypocrisy has been unfortunately attributed to all Pharisees of all ages. That Jesus did condemn some Pharisees of his day, there is no reason to doubt. But the present reading’s intensity is probably due more to the historical situation in Matthew’s day in the latter part of the first century.” In the community of Matthew, there were “bad and good” and even vain leaders. By recalling what Jesus had taught when he stigmatized scribes and Pharisees whose lamentable behavior made him indignant, the evangelist was reinforcing the Divine Master’s stand on how to deal with the bad example of vain leaders.
Regarding the stringent interpretation of the Law, with their 613 rules and regulations, the Pharisees were making religion an intolerable burden. Their legalistic, severe interpretation of the Law was like a weight to drag the people down and was becoming a menace to the people. Concerning the religious leader’s vanity and hypocrisy, Harold Buetow explains: “One thing they did was to widen their phylacteries (v. 5). Phylacteries are little boxes containing Scripture texts which the Jews bind to their forhead and left wrist when saying their prayers. The Law had commanded to keep the Law as a sign on the hand and as a memorial between the eyes. They interpreted this literally instead of figuratively, the sense in which the regulation was probably meant. There was nothing wrong with that, except when they widened the phylacteries in order that everyone would see them … They also lengthened their tassels. Originally these were to be worn on the four corners of the cloak as reminders of the Law. The Pharisees enlarged them out of ostentation. And they coveted places of honor at banquets (v. 6) and the front seats of honor in the synagogues. The back seats were assigned to children and the unimportant; the further in front the seat, the greater the honor … They also loved greetings in marketplaces (v. 7). Though courtesy demands that marks of respect be given proportionate to the dignity of a person, to seek greetings was a self-serving status symbol. And they were fond of the salutation ‘Rabbi’, which meant ‘my master’, a teacher of the Law …Jesus rejects three honorary titles (vv. 8-12): master, father, and teacher. If this prohibition were taken literally, it would mean that we shouldn’t call our physician ‘doctor’, because the word means ‘learned one’, or anyone ‘mister’ because that means master and ultimately comes from ‘magister’ or teacher, or our physical ‘father’ or our spiritual father, the priest, ‘father’. What Jesus forbids is that Christians use titles for mere ostentation, arrogance, or pomposity … Titles aren’t to be given without recognizing that any ‘fatherhood’ that one might have is in God, from whose heavenly Fatherhood the authority of earthly fatherhood derives.” Indeed, religious showiness is to be rejected in light of the Christian ideal of leadership as service to the community (Mt 20:25-28) and the dynamic of humility and exaltation.
This Sunday’s Gospel must be understood correctly lest we draw faulty and dangerous conclusions. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explicate: “First of all, we do not have here a condemnation of the diversity and distinction of functions and services in the Church and ecclesial communities; these are indispensable to the smooth functioning of the community and the liturgical assembly in particular. The Church is like a well-structured body that needs diverse members, each one fulfilling its role, without bragging about it (I Cor 12:12-31). Similarly, there is no radical condemnation here of all titles that usually designate those who exercise a ministry. But they must bear such titles as a demand and not as mark of honor. Finally, in the liturgical celebrations, the insignia of the various functions are not baubles; they show who is who and who does what: a proper thing for an assembly that must have visible structures. The same is true of the attribution of places. Certain egalitarian demands forget that an assembly is not an amorphous crowd. They ignore what befits not only the good order that must prevail in the Church and the assemblies but also the elementary laws of the life of a group and the respect due to each other.”
The Gospel of today is, above all, an invitation to turn our eyes toward our one Father in heaven and toward Christ, the Divine Master, who gave us the example of becoming a servant and was exalted because he humbled himself in love and service. According to Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae: “One who teaches in this way, with authority, has a unique title to the name of ‘Teacher’ … This image of Christ the Teacher is at once majestic and familiar, impressive and reassuring … I am not forgetful that the majesty of Christ the Teacher and the unique consistency and persuasiveness of His teaching can only be explained by the fact that His words, His parables and His arguments are never separable from His life and His very being. Accordingly, the whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for people, His special affection for the little and the poor, His acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the Redemption of the world, and His resurrection are the actualization of His word and the fulfillment of Revelation. Hence for Christians the crucifix is one of the most sublime and popular images of Christ the Teacher.”
by Rodelio F. Paglinawan SMQA
(Member: Society of Mary Queen of Apostles)
In today’s Gospel, we can learn two things that may be beneficial for our day-to-day living. These are (1) the practice of what we preach and (2) the virtue of humility. Although these two can be taken separately, they are closely intertwined in this gospel.
I remember a story about a teacher who taught her pupils to keep themselves and their surroundings clean and neat at all times. She even taught them how to help clean their houses. She told them how she hated the sight of a dirty house and its filthy surroundings. Her pupils were happy about the lesson, but hated the way it was taught to them. They thought that their teacher was conceited.
One day, her pupils visited her in her house. To their disgust, they saw a lot of spider webs in her house. The floors were littered with so many things and a few cats feasted at the table on the leftover food. The teacher was so embarrassed when she saw her pupils’ reaction at what they had witnessed.
This story is told and retold in so many ways in our lives. We may be bragging about something that we have done and keep to ourselves the things that we failed to do. We may be bragging about a noble idea, which we cannot do ourselves. In both cases, traces of the story could be figured out. It will then be very embarrassing for us to face our own challenge and fail to meet the standard we ourselves have set.
Humility is the best weapon we could have to counter this. Humility enables us to be what we should be, say only what we must say, and do only what we can, accepting our human limitations in the process. It is better to be humble than to be humiliated.
Trying our best to be Christ-like every day of our lives is the goal of every Christian. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say could help us a lot. It would be better for us to avoid saying great things, which we ourselves cannot do.
Now, I remember how most of my classmates in the seminary would put it: “the more we speak, the more mistakes we commit; no talk, no mistake!” I am not promoting a speechless society here though. What I would like to underline is that we should only speak of the things that could add to the glory of God and his Church. Anything that would demean anyone in our community could also hurt the One whose image and likeness resides in them.
Practicing what we preach … will make us humbler. Humility makes us nearer to the Almighty. Amen.
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. Like some scribes and Pharisees rightly castigated for their vanity and hypocrisy, are we also guilty of these faults? If so, what do we do?
B. How do we relate to our one sole Father in heaven? Do we have an intense filial relationship with our “Abba” – Father?
C. Do we fix our loving gaze upon Jesus, the Divine Master? Do we allow this incomparable Teacher to reveal his heavenly Father and himself to us? Do we allow Christ to live in us?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(“Invocations to the Divine Master” by Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family)
Jesus Master, sanctify my mind and increase my faith.
Jesus, teaching in the Church, draw everyone to your school.
Jesus Master, deliver me from error, from vain thoughts, and from eternal darkness.
Jesus, Way between the Father and us, I offer you all and await all from you.
Jesus, Way of sanctity, make me your faithful imitator.
Jesus Way, render me perfect as the Father who is in heaven.
Jesus Life, live in me, so that I may live in you.
Jesus Life, do not permit me to separate myself from you.
Jesus Life, grant that I may live eternally in the joy of your love.
Jesus Truth, may I be light for the world.
Jesus Way, may I be example and model for souls.
Jesus Life, may my presence bring grace and consolation everywhere.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“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.” (Mt 23:9-10)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray for the Pauline Family, founded by Blessed Alberione, that the members may have a more meaningful and fruitful celebration of Jesus, the Divine Master. Pray for all teachers that they may always be limpid, credible and authentic in the way they teach. Support the apostolic works of the Pauline Family in their endeavor to give to the world Jesus Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may truly disciples of Christ, the true Master and Teacher, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 49): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323