Reflection: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
The Scribes were the people who knew how to read and write Hebrew. They copied the scrolls of the Bible and were the experts in the Mosaic Law. Since most of the people did not know how to read or write, the Scribes explained the Law to them and acted as lawyers. Jesus, therefore, recognized their role as teachers of the people. The Pharisees were lay students of the Law, and meticulously sought the perfect observance of the Law. However, even during the time of the prophet Malachi, these experts of the Mosaic Law already made the error of observing the letter but not having the spirit of the Law. They made a mechanical worship by going about the rituals strictly, making a theatrical performance, but their mind and heart were only in the search for admiration, respect and honor from the people. They used their position to obtain power and glory which led to arrogance and love of self. Even though they explained the Law to the people, they sought to exempt themselves from observance. An extreme case is cited in St. Mark (7:10-12) in which the fourth commandment to “honor your father and mother” was nullified by them saying: “Any support you might have from me is qorban, dedicated to God.” The phylacteries are a small box containing strips of parchment in which was written the schema, Dt. 6:4-9, tied to the forehead and left wrists. Even today many Jews ostentatiously wear the phylacteries, calling attention to themselves.
The question, therefore, stands for me as: Do I go to Church to please men or to please God? Do I observe the commandments to show off to others that I am a good Christian or that I may have a close relationship with my Lord and God? Do I fast and give alms to show others that I am pious and religious? Do I serve in Church so others will admire me, honor me or extol me? Do I spend hours in prayer and meditation to be seen as prayerful or that I may commune deeper with the Lord and have more profound relationship with him? By reading about the Lord in Scriptures or spiritual books I learn more about him. No one loves what he does not know. Thus when I come to know the Lord more deeply, I can love him more dearly, then I can follow him more closely. When I learn more about the way he thinks and acts, I can imitate him the more and grow to be more like him. This is why Jesus insists that he alone is our Teacher and God alone is our Father. When we have this full realization, then to love for one another is easy, fraternal charity will exist in the Church and we will all be faithful followers of Christ.