Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(II Thessalonians 1:1-5.11-12; Matthew 23:13-22)
Catholics genuflect before the tabernacle containing the Eucharistic bread. For much the same reason we bow before the altar in church. The altar is hardly just a table that is used to sit the bread which becomes the body of Christ. Much more significantly, it symbolizes Christ standing as it does in the most prominent place in the church, itself a symbol of the People of God. Much like Jesus complains of the scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel, many people fail to give the altar its due respect.
In reading gospel passages like the one today one may have the false impression that the scribes and Pharisees are necessarily evil men. Actually, like in almost any group of religious people, some are sincere in their religious fervor while others are opportunists who feign piety to belittle the poor and to enrich themselves. This behavior is the polar opposite to the care for others that God has asked of those profess belief.
We might consider thinking about what Jesus expects of us when we give him honor by genuflecting and bowing. He is the Lord who commands us to be humble toward others and to trust in him for our needs and not in deception. When we pay him homage with a symbolic gesture, we are professing our commitment to obey him.