“A Challenge” by Fr Ray McIntyre

                         “A Challenge”                                                                 31st Sunday Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage highlights the difference between true Religion and false piety by talking about the religious leaders of the Jews at the time of Jesus. The Pharasees, taken as a group, were neither good nor holy. Preoccupied with the exterior trappings of religion, inside they were empty and hollow. They dressed and acted in such a way as to draw attention to themselves. Their long prayers were merely an outward show because they neglected the important matters of Faith, Justice and Mercy. While placing harsh burdens and prohibitions on the Jewish people, these burdens had little to do with God’s Law.

The Gospel paints an unflattering picture of the Pharisees. They are criticised mainly because they failed to practice what they preached. Few of us can truthfully say that our deeds always match our words. In fact,most of us are pretty good at presenting one face for the public and displaying a different one to our family and friends. But it is clear that Jesus wanted his followers to avoid the obvious mistakes of the Pharisees. What Jesus wished is summed up in these words of today’s Gospel:

Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and
Anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.

Humility is to be a key virtue for a follower of Jesus.

Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope in1958 becoming Pope John 23rd. He described how he felt making his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s square. He said: I remembered Jesus’s warning – learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. He described being dazzled by TV Lights and how he could see nothing but a hugh mass of people. He said: I blessed Rome and the world as though I were a blind man and as I came away I thought of all the attention that would be focussed on me from now on. I said to myself.

If you don’t remain a disciple of the gentle and humble master you’ll understand nothing. Indeed John 23rd. Did go on to adopt a model of leadership of  the Church that did reflect the compassionate leadership of Christ.

The Gospel is a challenge to all Christians about the quality of their worship and the witness of their Faith. A particular focus are those whose role it is to lead, to keep a vision of God’s Kingdom alive today, to proclaim His goodness and His commandments. Such people often fail to practise what they preach and this failure weakens the impact of the message. However, human failure does not invalidate the truth or power of the Gospel. In all circumstances of life we lead by example and that is what will bring others to Christ.