Meditation for Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent
(Is 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12)
Today’s Lenten meditation refers to religious leaders and the principle of leadership in general. The prophet Isaiah admonished Jewish leaders, whom he referred to as ‘rulers of Sodom’, and the people as ‘people of Gomorrah.’ He asked them to listen to the teaching of God and cease to do evil. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” After instructing them on the right approach to religion, the prophet offered them God’s solemn invitation to forgiveness of their sins. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.”
In the Gospel, Jesus was no less lenient on the Scribes and Pharisees, who occupy the seat of Moses. “So practice and observe what they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” The preacher ought to practice what he teaches; this is the only way he can be compassionate to the people. He is called to bear the burdens with the people, not living off their limit! It is vainglory for him to seek honor, and it is ironic and a sign of failure to demand honor since he already occupies the position of honor. He must be a humble servant in his position of honor. “I became all things to all men that I may, by all means, save some of them” (1 Cor 9:22).
However, the preacher does not own the message; the message and the rules of worship belong to God. That is why Jesus asked the people to obey the Pharisees but never to emulate their lifestyle. Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23), discerning what belongs to God and removing their heart and mind from the human agency. We see then, that a hypocritical religious leader is a burden unto the people, for he makes it more difficult for them to connect to God. His false life is a serious distraction that must be avoided. Humility is the key, both the preacher and the followers; it is the principle that guides us and helps us to discern properly. “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021.