The scribes and Pharisees were charged with the responsibility of leading the Chosen people in a faithful relationship with God and so they had a religious authority to teach and uphold the Law of Moses. Their titles and authority were meant to be at the service of God for the good of the people. However, for these leaders, their titles had become and end in themselves instead of a means to the greater end of eternal life. They were using their titles for their own glory and for their own purpose.
It is for this reason Jesus tells the crowds not to seek after titles for the sake of the title, no mater what the title might be. Every title is given for the greater purpose of looking beyond the title to the service of the Kingdom of God. He singles out the titles Rabbi, Father and Master ( in another translation, teacher), but he could use any title. All authority, all gifts and talents come from God and are meant to be of service to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not telling us we should not use titles. He is telling us we must know where the authority for those titles comes from and then be good stewards of that authority.
Almost all of Jesus’ teaching can be referenced back to the Greatest Commandment, “We must love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” There can be nothing in our lives more important than God and His plan of salvation.
If we find any teaching in the Scriptures to be difficult we can come back to this Commandment. Do we love God above everything or everyone, and do we put our total trust in Him? Have we ordered our lives to God by being faithful to all He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church and committed ourselves to daily prayer and the sacramental life?
This is how we discover the plan that He has for us and realize our own dignity and purpose in life. True humility is to know who we are in relationship with God and then be good stewards of what He has given us so we can reach our potential for happiness.
Jesus was not only chastising the Pharisees of two thousand years ago. He is chastising every person in every age who has not made the Kingdom of God his priority. God chastises those whom He loves and He loves all of us. We all must be purified of wrong intentions that are self serving. Every good gift comes from God, but if God is not recognized as its source and it is not used for His greater good it will not reach its potential for greatness and may even be an obstacle to His plan. There have been many great people who have accomplished great things, but what is the value of their accomplishments in the plan of God.
Recently there has been much said about Steve Jobs and his successes. Truly, few men have accomplished what he has accomplished. In an interview with 60 minutes, he said,
“Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50- 50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I have been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of— maybe it’s cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Some how it lives on.”
Let’s pray that in his final moments Steve Jobs was able to humbly surrender his life to God and after purification discover the unimaginable greatness of heaven where even the poorest most uneducated person shares in the wisdom of God.
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” Mk 8:36
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Preached in a homily on Sunday, October 30th – – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)