Who Is Seeking Honour, Lord?
Gospel Reflection, Second Tuesday of Lent: Mt 23:1-12
…they preach but they do not practice.
All their works are performed to be seen…
They love places of honour…
(Mt. 23:3b, 5a, 6a)
We are challenged to see these qualities that Jesus names as weaknesses when the online world is full of admiration for people who exhibit them. Maybe there’s a Catholic speaker who confidently preaches what I want to hear but ignores Jesus’ call to stop condemning, or that guy from church on social media who has a constant popular commentary on every infraction of the liturgy that occurs at the parish, but doesn’t involve himself in being a part of that community. When we give attention to these people and ascribe honour to their opinions and thoughts, we have a responsibility to recognise that we are giving them a place of honour at a banquet.
In the intimacy of our thoughts, a feast where all our senses, thoughts, intellect, and conscience intermingle and shape our actions, to whom are we giving the places of honour? Who is sitting in the seats where they can speak softly and lowly to us, as John the Beloved spoke to our Lord at the Last Supper?
It is hard to lie to ourselves regarding to whom we pay the most attention, but it does take time and reflection. Sometimes when we shut ourselves off from sources of opinions/voices (such as social media), when we go back into it we can have a clearer sense of who we’ve been giving these places of honour, for their voices are louder when we come from their silence.
I am not proud to admit it, but one of my greatest temptations is to want to be like the Pharisees are described by Jesus today. There’s a part of me that desires people to notice my works due to my faith. I desire to be honoured at banquets, churches, in public spaces, and be revered for my wisdom and piety among others.
It is only with a very pointed finger in the mirror that I can even begin to understand today’s Gospel, for when it comes to this dis-ordered desire, I must admit my own weakness to this self-serving and superficial temptation.
Stepping away from places where voices compete can help us see where we’ve been trying to seek these places of honour. When our eyes are cleared we can ask ourselves, is this how God is calling me to use my time and talent?
Whether we’re already being attentive or not, let us remember that the places of honour in our minds are meant to be set aside and filled with our Lord in the ways we can encounter him on earth: prayer, the Word, the sacraments, and the Body of Christ. There will always be tensions, but the more we invite Jesus to speak tenderly to us at our table, the less we will be seeking superficial faith for the pleasure of others’ opinions.
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Great reflection. Aquinas says that when we make a choice there are two things we ultimately choose. The end and the means. So when I feed the poor this external act is actually what I’ve chosen for the means. But the end is hidden. Some might feed the poor to help them or love them, others who are seeking honours or the opinion of righteousness.
Words and deeds ultimately are means (useful externals) to accomplish our chosen motive. But a Christian “witness” is one who is disposed rightly, while using rightly, words and deeds.
I find many tend to argue that deeds are better than words. It’s certainly revealing when deeds contradict our words. But we as sinners can nonetheless put on a good show even with our deeds. This debate ultimately distracts us from the interior life of a “witness.”
A witness us not reduced to some external act, it’s connected to an authentic, spiritually fruitful disposition.
A witness is one who genuinely loves God and Neighbor and chooses the means that help bring this to fulfillment. People can be fooled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But many can sniff them out. A witness is not only trusted, but bears good fruit
Beautiful reflection on the Gospel reading today. Thank you for you openness and honesty. I know I struggle similarly with my ego and appreciate the reminder to focus on humility.