Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
(Isaiah 1:10.16-20; Matthew 23:1-12)
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus wages a war on hypocrisy. He emphasizes it in the Sermon on the Mount. There he warns his disciples not to fast, pray, or give alms for show. In today’s passage he critiques the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach.
Then Jesus tells his disciples that they are brothers and sisters to on another. As such, he does not want anyone to assume greater respect or honor than anyone else. He becomes specific in what this means. They are not to call one another, “Rabbi,” “teacher,” “master,” or “father.” These titles are used among the Pharisees to covet honor.
We in the Church have not taken Jesus literally in this command. Teachers inside the Church abound. Priests are almost universally called “Father.” The transgressions on the part of the people may be readily forgiven. They have a long tradition and often give comfort to those who seek spiritual wisdom. But clericalism – the pretension that priests are better and more deserving of honor than lay persons – is a tragic sin. It is tragic because Orders is a sacrament of service, not of domination. It is a sin because it subverts the unity Jesus intends among his disciples.