Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

31st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: TRUE WITNESSES IN OUR TIME

Mt 23: 1-12

BLESSED POPE PAUL VI once said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (EN 41). 
 
Jesus sees the importance of the work of the scribes and the Pharisees for they have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. They are great teachers, in other words. But Jesus was aware that these people are also hypocrites. Thus, his advice to his disciples was: “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example”. Let us try to reflect on the observations of Jesus toward these two groups of people so that we can also get rid also of these tendencies.
 
Firstly, the scribes and the Pharisees are not witnesses. As Jesus said, "they preach but they do not practice". I would say that this is also one of the weaknesses for some people. It is easier to say things, but to do them is another thing. Mostly leaders are good at this. They allow their subordinates to toe the line, but they fail to do it. Some teachers, too, have this tendency. They can be good in teaching things to students, but they could not apply what they teach to themselves and to their own children. Pope Paul VI reminds us that modern people do not listen to leaders and teachers, but to witnesses. If modern men and women happen to listen to leaders and teachers, it is because they are witnesses. In other words, they lived out what they believe.
 
Secondly, the scribes and the Pharisees are hypocrites. Jesus observed that “all their works are performed to be seen”. This reminds us that our work of piety or spirituality is meant for God, and not for the people to know and to appreciate them. Therefore, we should have a clean motive; we do not do it for display or for personal gains. We simply do it for God. In our country, the Philippines, it appears that political life can be hypocritical too. It has become a practice for politicians to advertise their names whenever a certain project for the community of locality has been completed. They forget that the fund does not come from their own purses, and besides, it is their duty to serve.  This should not be done with a motive for public acknowledgment.
 
Thirdly, the scribes and the Pharisees are obsessed with honor. Jesus had observed this, and he said, “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’.” So, positions and titles are important for them. We can understand this because, we, people, have longings, dreams and aspirations. It is natural tendency to aspire for honor and greatness. In the workplace, for instance, I think most of the people desire for promotion. But to be obsessed with these things is another thing. People who are obsessed with positions, titles, honor etc., can be unjust to others. If we aspire for these things, they should come to us clean, and should be given to us freely, but not forcedly acquired or demanded. 
 
In this gospel passage, Jesus reminds us to be true to our vocation as Christians. What the world needs now are true witnesses. And Jesus wants us to be witnesses in this world surrounded by skeptics, by trying to practice or live out what we believe. He wants us also to be sincere in our piety or in the expression of our beliefs. We should always be guided by a sincere motive to please God and not others. We simply want to maintain a good and loving relationship with God. Lastly, honor may be important to our life, but we should not be obsessed by it. Obsession would lead to arrogance and boastfulness. Actually, there is an irony in the last words of Jesus in the gospel, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted, we need to be lowly and humble.” If we want true greatness, the key is humility. At the end of the day, people would not consider arrogant people as great and worthy of honor. Humble and unassuming people are. AMEN. 
 

« Back to Homilies Index

  Contact Us

MSP CENTRAL OFFICE
 3791 Cuenca St.
 Palanan
1235 MAKATI CITY

or MCPO Box 1006
    1200 MAKATI CITY

PHONE: (632) 551-6983
FAX: (632) 831-9937
E-mail: secgen@msp.org.ph