Monday, 3 November 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Simeon on Sunday 2nd November 2014:


“Do and observe whatever the scribes and Pharisees tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen . . .
“The greatest among you must be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and give all the money to the church, would I get into heaven?” “No!” The children all answered.
“If I cleaned the church everyday, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I then get into heaven?” Again, the answer was “NO!”
“Well,” she continued, “then how can I get into heaven? In the back of the room, a five year-old boy shouted, “You gotta be dead!”

In  today's Gospel Reading, [Mt. 23:1-12] we heard how Jesus denounced the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus began by stating that the scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses' seat, this meaning that they had the authority to teach the Law. As such, the people were required to obey the Law. Jesus was not attacking the Law but the scribes and the Pharisees who's teachings were not in harmony with their practice. They did not practice what they were preaching to the others.
Jesus had two complaints, the harshness in which the scribes explained the Law to the people and the conceit and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. When they explained the Law, the scribes would ignore the humane interpretation of it. While they commanded others to obey the Law without any deviation from it, they themselves were not doing it. Everything they did, it was to be seen.
Jesus continued to condemn the scribes and Pharisees for seeking the places of honour at feasts and in the synagogues. They loved to be greeted in the marketplaces. In those days, politeness demanded that the length of one's greeting correspond to the dignity of the person. By dressing as one who maintained a great devotion, the individual would draw longer greetings.
Having said this, Jesus condemned them for using the titles of rabbi, father and instructor. They should not be called rabbi because they have one teacher, they being student.

No one should be called father for they have one Father in Heaven. And they are not to be called instructor for the one instructor is the Messiah.
Based on this passage, some have taken it out of context and said that no one is allowed to be called father, not even the priests. First of all, in context with Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, while they sought to be called father, their actions fell short of coming close to what is expected of a spiritual father to the people. They did not deserve such a title.
Jesus did not condemn others from calling some people fathers. In fact, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul referred to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthians. "For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." [1 Cor. 4:15] Had the word father been condemned for everybody, surely, Paul would never have used it.
Jesus finished His message by saying that the greatest is the one who is the servant. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who are humble will be exalted. In other words, one should wait until such time as God grants him a place of honour. He should not be creating his own place of honour.
As you can see, the scribes and the Pharisees were not committed to sharing the love of God. They applied self-love! What did self-love get them? It received criticism from Jesus who is the Word of God. For us Christians to be committed to sharing the love of God, we must do the opposite of what the scribes and the Pharisees were doing. We must be humble! We must serve others! We must not draw attention to our prayer lives in order to receive worldly praise.

Having said this, I ask you all to prayerfully reflect this week on how you have committed your lives to sharing the love of God. Is there room for improvement? Is there a lack of sharing the love of God? Is the sharing of God's love too public, too self-seeking? Ask yourself how Jesus would judge your commitment to share God's love if He was present before you. And while doing so, I ask you  to pray for all of us so that we may all grow in the grace of God to become as shining lights in the world.