Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
In today’s scripture from Matthew’s gospel, we get a very clear message from
Jesus, “do as they say, not as they do.” Jesus is instructing his followers not to
follow the ways of the scribes and Pharisees for they do not practice what they
preach. This message fits the overall intention of the gospel which serves as a
transition, connecting the stories of the old and new testaments.
It must have driven the church leaders mad to have this very human “king” come
onto the scene and point out the dissonance between their words and actions.
After all, they were expecting and waiting for a very different king. The humility
required to hear such a reprimand and to choose to change their ways proved to
be too great a challenge for many Jewish leaders.
Well, how about us today? The season of Advent gives us the opportunity to
reflect on our own choices and to prepare a deeper place for Jesus’ love in our
hearts and actions. During this time, we prepare for the “coming of Christ” in
three distinct forms: remembering the infant birth of Christ; remembering the
promise of his second coming; and preparing for his birth in our own human
hearts. We wait. We remember. We prepare. Once the waiting is over, we
celebrate on Christmas morning.
What will this Christ-Child within us look like in our lives? Will we exalt ourselves
or humble ourselves? Will our words and actions align? We get to make the
choice every day of our lives. May this holy season of Advent nurture a Christ-like
clarity and humbleness in all of us so that we may live our Baptismal promises to
be the presence of Jesus’ love on earth. Amen.