Aug 26 (Mt 23:1-12)

There is an incident mentioned in the life of St Francis de Sales.

 

A short time before his death, St Francis was asked by a nun from the Visitation Convent, to mention what virtue would he specially wish the sisters to cultivate.

 

The saint, being unable to converse, owing to his extreme sickness, asked for a piece of paper to write.

On this piece of paper, the Gentleman Saint wrote one word: “Humility”!

 
• This saint who lived this virtue, considered humility as the most essential virtue for a genuine Christian living.
• The saint who preached and practised love, exhorted humility as the primary virtue for growth in holiness.
 

The one who lacks humility begins to proclaim one’s own glory and draw attention to oneself.

 

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus highlighting this lack of humility among the religious leaders of His time…

… and putting forward a warning to be wary of the danger of falling into the dungeon of pride and conceit.

 
The Lord in all His teachings loves to get to the core of true human living and makes it a point to emphasize on all such inner values.

 
In the 23rd Chapter of St Matthew, Jesus makes a long condemnation of the “proud” actions and “conceited” devotions of the Pharisees and the Scribes.

 
Jesus says, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach, but do not practise” (Mt 23: 2-3)

 
Jesus lashes out strongly at the self-attention seeking attitude of these religious leaders.

• They would tie heavy burdens on others….but would themselves not move a finger to move them

• They would widen their phylacteries and even lengthen their tassels.

• They would love to be seated on places of honour in the synagogues and banquets.

• They would seek to be called with great salutations and titles in the public places.

• They would perform many works before others…but all to be seen by other people.

 
What were Phylacteries?

>> Phylacteries were small cube-shaped “leather cases” that was worn on foreheads and arms. In these cases, were the Scripture verses (Ex 13: 1-10, 11-16 and Dt 6: 4-9; 11: 13-21)

• The Exodus verses were about how God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, and about the celebration of the Passover.
• The Deuteronomy verses were about loving God wholly – with one’s heart, mind, and spirit.
 

The tassels (fringes) on the robes were to be a constant reminder of God’s commandments (Num 15: 38-41).

>> Each time the one who wore noticed the tassel, he was to ask himself if he were sincerely living God’s law in the world.

 
However, by making their phylacteries and tassels extra-long, the Pharisees and the Scribes were putting on a show of great religiosity, of being spiritually more superior than others.

 
The purpose of these external signs were to be great reminders of the wonders of God Yahweh and their own commitment to the Lord.

>> But this purpose was lost.. and it was replaced with a self-show!

 

The one who lacks humility begins to proclaim one’s own glory and draw attention to oneself.

 
The Pharisees and Scribes were losing the virtue of humility…

… and instead were drowning in the murky waters of pride!

 

This danger can be reality for anyone of us too, in our lives…

 
And so the Lord cautions us…

 • Am I making my practise of Christianity as a mere tool for a higher social status and some cheap material benefits?
• Am I losing out on cultivating true and honest devotion and instead settling for a “showy” and “external” facade of pious practices?
 

The Lord invites us to grow in the virtue of Humility.

 
Let the words of St Augustine be a challenge as well as a reminder for us:

“It was pride that changed angels into devils;

It is humility that makes men as angels.”

 

God Bless! Live Jesus!

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