31 Sunday A

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1) Elephantine shock therapy. The story has been told of a lion who was very proud. He decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures.  He strutted his way through the forest until he came across a bear. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, BEAR?”  “Why of course you are, mighty lion.”  He went on until he found the tiger. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, TIGER?”  ‘Why you are, great lion.”  Next the lion found the elephant. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, ELEPHANT?”  The elephant instantly grabbed the lion with his trunk and spun him around a few times and slammed him to the ground.  He then stepped on him a few times, picked him up and dunked him in the water and then threw him up against a tree.  The lion staggered to his feet and said, “LOOK, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET SO UPSET!’  The lion was the one who wasn’t getting it.  He was missing the truth, just as were many of the scribes and Pharisees and Jewish priests to whom Jesus gives an elephantine shock treatment in today’s Gospel.  

2) “First President of the U. S. to lose a war.” People do crazy things out of pride. One of the people whose reputation is being somewhat enhanced by the changes in the Soviet Union is Nikita Khrushchev. Some of us remember Khrushchev simply as the man who pounded his shoe on the table at the United Nations and said, "We will bury you." Actually, Khrushchev was a reformer and a relatively responsible man. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Khrushchev was advised by his military experts to confront the United States. These advisors felt that the biggest tragedy would not be a nuclear confrontation but rather a perception by the Chinese or the Albanians that they were weak. Fortunately, Khrushchev did not listen to them. He called them maniacs and said, "What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that, though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact?" Contrast his attitude with that of a former President of the U. S.  who, during the Vietnam War, was determined not to be the first President of the U. S. to lose a war. We don't know how many lives were lost because of that attitude. Pride can be a deadly emotion, and it is not the sole possession of those at the top of society. In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the proud Pharisees.

3) Acquired situational narcissism. Someone in our day who has a prideful self-centeredness, we say, has the disease of Narcissism.  The name comes from Greek mythology and refers to a handsome young man, Narcissus, a proud hunter. He was the son of the River God Cephissus and the nymph Liroipe and was known for his physical beauty. Narcissus was arrogant and scorned those who loved him. His conduct offended Nemesis (the goddess who punished evil deeds, overweening pride and undeserved good fortune). She drew the young man to a clear poor where he saw and fell in love with the beauty of the one he saw reflected there. He was obsessed with the image he saw, neither ate nor drank, and finally died (From Wikipedia: Narcissus, Nemesis). Both the prophet Malachi in the first reading and Jesus in today’s Gospel react strongly against such narcissism among the religious leaders of their times.  Even though most of our religious leaders will never be at risk for getting Acquired Situational Narcissism, they, too, have the temptation to become overly self-involved.  They, too, sometimes imagine minor-league celebrity status for themselves and become prima donnas in the office or at Church or in pubic places.  Today’s Scriptures have a strong warning for them.

4) A horrible mistake: “Father, I have a besetting sin, and I want your help.  I come to church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation.  I know I ought not to think that, but I can’t help it.  I want you to help me with it."  The pastor replied, "Mary, don’t worry about it.  In your case it’s not a sin.  It’s just a horrible mistake."   
5) Big grasshoppers: On a vacation to Australia, a Texas farmer meets an Aussie farmer and starts talking to him about his farm.  The Aussie takes him to see his big wheat field, but the Texan isn’t impressed.  "We have wheat fields that are twice as large as this one," he told the Aussie.  The Aussie farmer drives him around the ranch and shows off his big herd of cattle.  "Oh, our longhorns are at least twice as big as these," the Texan bragged.  The Aussie farmer is getting frustrated, when the Texan suddenly notices a herd of kangaroos hopping across a field.  "What on earth are those?" he asks.  The Aussie turns to him with a mischievous smile. "Don’t you have any big grasshoppers like this in Texas?"  

6) “You and I both know you ain’t."   When Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency by the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his closest friend Sam Rayburn took him aside.  "From here on out, you’re going to have lots of people around you.  They’ll try to put up a wall around you and cut you off from any ideas but theirs.  They’ll tell you what a great man you are, Harry.  But you and I both know you ain’t."   

7) "Yankee, that ain’t nothin.”  A Texas rancher met up with a Wisconsin dairy farmer.  The two men began talking about their land and the milkman told the cattleman that he operated his business on 125 acres.  The Texan scoffed at such a small parcel of land.  He said, "Yankee, that ain’t nothin’.  On my ranch I can get in my truck at sunrise and I won’t reach the fence line of my property until sunset."  The dairy farmer snorted, "Yeah, I used to have an old truck like that."

8) “You don’t need a life jacket.”  A sailor once took a group of young people boating for the day.  One young man bragged the whole way about all he knew about the sea.  Every time the sailor began to give instructions this young man would interrupt with his supposed knowledge.  After some time, a squall blew up.  The sailor began to hand out lifejackets.  “Where’s mine?” cried the know-it-all.  “Don’t worry son,” replied the old sailor.  “You don’t need a life jacket.  With a head as full of hot air as yours, you will float forever!”  
Jack Mc Ardle
Central Theme

Today’s gospel is a head-on attack on the religious leaders, who preach one thing, and practise something else. Jesus shows them up as phoneys who try to impress others by external show, while, within, they are far from being what they pretend to be.
With the growth in global communication has come the spot­light that penetrates into every corner, so that it is getting in­creasingly difficult to conceal, or to suppress scandals. We see that in our Tribunals of Enquiry, where pillars of society, who were telling us to tighten our belts, have been exposed as lining their pockets with millions. All of the recent dictators, who have been ousted, have been exposed as having bled the country’s economy dry, as they stashed billions in other countries. Something similar has been exposed in the church, when some of those who thumped the pulpit and told us how to live our lives, have been exposed as people who themselves were living double lives.
StoryOne day the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing him just how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what could be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, ‘How was the trip?’ ‘It was great, dad.’ ‘Did you see how poor people can be?’ ‘Oh yeah!’, said the son. ‘So what did you learn from the trip?’ 

The son answered, ‘I saw that we have one dog, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We have walls around our property to protect us, but they have friends to protect them.’ With this, the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, ‘Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we are.’

There is a vast difference between being wealthy and being rich. When I have genuine gratitude for what I have, I may begin discovering the richness of others.

1.     From Father James Gilhooley
 The boss was in his new office. An employee walked in. The boss picked up the phone and started an imaginary conversation flattering himself. He signaled the worker he'd be with him shortly. The employee said, "Take your time, boss. I'm here to hook up your phone." "A proud heart," wrote Ben Franklin, "is like a crooked fence.  

 All the paint in the world won't straighten it." The problem of pride was as bothersome to the early Church as it is to ours. Mark and Luke touch upon pride as well as today's Matthew. No century corners the market on pride. Can anyone even remotely imagine a proud Christ? Yet, He had much to be proud about. What disciple does Jesus seek?  

 A monk was sent to an abbey as abbot. He arrived at the abbey. From his dress, the monks judged him inferior. They sent him to their kitchen. Their new abbot spent weeks scouring pots and shelling beans. The bishop arrived. When he could not find the abbot, he went on a search. He found him in the kitchen preparing supper. He presented him to the monks in chapel. They had received a lifetime lesson in humility. The abbot is the man whom the Teacher wants. (William Barclay)  
 The proud, we are told, pray on Sunday and PREY on those about them on Monday. Rather, pray with God on Sunday and walk with Him on Monday. The abbot reminds us when we think we are humble, we are not. Many of us even have a nasty habit of being proud of our humility. We become legends in our minds. We go to church to find out what our neighbors should do to lead better lives. He that is proud, said Shakespeare, eats himself up. Pride, says the Bible, goeth before the fall. In Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," Alice found a mushroom. When she ate one side of the mushroom, she found herself getting smaller. When she ate the other side, she got taller. Of the two situations, Alice decided smaller was better. For, as she was reduced in size, all things and people about her looked more wonderful. Less, she discovered, can be more. Small can be beautiful.  

 Walt Whitman ate the correct side of the mushroom, for he wrote, "As for me, I know nothing else but miracles." We are forever circling that same mushroom. If we allow ourselves the portion that makes us larger, everything else about us will lack wonder. We will become puffed up with our worth. Critics will put us down as studies in pomposity. We will develop in ourselves the very faults which we detest in others. The proud, says the savant, detest pride in others.  

 A man was awarded a medal for his humility. Shortly he was stripped of it. He had begun to wear it proudly. Many of us have much in common with him. Two ambassadors walked on Paris' Champs Elysees. They were grieved. Though the Parisians had greeted them warmly, none had addressed them with their title, "Your Excellency." If proud, one becomes the character whom Peter Ustinov addresses in his play as "Your Altitude." We become like those who ask, "What will the world do without me when I'm gone?" Only those who permit themselves to grow smaller and smaller will be able to see "the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower." Not only will they bring themselves joy but also they will share that joy with others. They will be God's ambassadors. They will give pleasure to the Christ.  

 They will become the children which the Nazarene asked us to be. They will rush into the Kingdom laughing and singing "When the Saints Come Marching In." A US senator attends a weekly prayer group. At its end, while other participants rush to their jobs, the senator stays to stack chairs and clean up. And he is the highest ranking person there. Looking for a role model? But do not put off this thousand mile journey! Lewis Carroll must have had each of us in mind when he wrote in his other classic "Through the Looking-Glass": "It takes all the running you can do to stay in one place. If you want to get anywhere, you have to run twice as fast." A US president was working an old age home for votes while running for a second term. He said to an old man, "Do you know me?" The fellow said, "No, but if you ask the nurse, she'll tell you." No one, history tells us, has ever choked to death from swallowing his own pride. Can those, who really know themselves, afford to be proud? 

Fr. Jude Botelho 

In today’s first reading the prophet Isaiah begins with a feeling of deep depression almost forgetting what happiness could mean. This is man’s reaction in the face of death, or the prospect of isolation, want or chronic ill-health. Is this the end of it all? Then the prophet remembers what God has revealed of his mercy and he speaks words of hope as he describes final salvation and the joy of the chosen ones of God, who replied to the Lord’s invitation, in terms of a banquet. With the reawakening of faith comes the feeling of peace. The souls in purgatory have this peace as they wait in patience for the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his promise. What is certain is that He will come and bring his peace and consolation to all who await his coming. 

I Am God’s Man!

 During the Second World War I had something to do with a canteen which was run for the troops in the town in which I was working. Early in the way, we had billeted with us in the town a number of polish troops who had escaped from Poland. Among them there was a Polish airman. When he could be persuaded to talk, he would tell the story of a series of hair-raising escapes. He would tell of how somehow he had escaped from Poland, how somehow he tramped his way across Europe, how somehow he had crossed the Channel, how he had been shot down in his aero plane once and crashed on another occasion. He always concluded the story of his encounter with the same awe-stricken sentence: “I am God’s man!”

William Barclay

 In today’s gospel we see Jesus with his friends Martha and Mary as he goes to meet them on the occasion of receiving the news of the death of Lazarus. The narrative tells us that he did not immediately rush to Bethany on hearing this news, but went almost four days after Lazarus was dead and buried in the tomb. Why did he hesitate and delay? Did he not care for his friends? Could he not do anything for those who were in pain and loss? These are questions that come up in our mind not only about the family of Lazarus, but also each time we are confronted with the death of near and dear ones. When Martha and Mary hear that Jesus had finally arrived, their reactions were different. While Martha went out to meet him, Mary remained sitting inside the house. Martha immediately voices her hope in a plaintive voice: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” At the same time she expresses her faith in Jesus: “But I know even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.” Jesus responds to her faith by reassuring her, “Your brother will rise up again!” “I am the resurrection and the life!” –this statement of Jesus is the centre piece of this gospel on the raising of Lazarus. To believe in Jesus, Messiah and Son of God, is to have in oneself eternal life, which no physical death can overthrow. When we believe in the power of the Lord Jesus the impossible becomes possible, where there is death life is restored. This happened for Jesus after he died on the Cross submissive to the Father’s will, and the same happens to all who accept death as the will of the Father, who let his son die on the cross, and who allows us to suffer pain and even death. We cannot understand why this has to happen but we know that only through death do we reach the fullness of life. 

Be Not Afraid!

 I should like to read to you some passages of a letter from a man, Captain Scott of the Antarctic, written in the tent, where it was found long afterwards with his body and those of some other very gallant gentlemen, his comrades. The writing is in pencil, still quite clear, though towards the end some of the words trail away as into the great silence that was waiting for them. It began: “We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot, hoping that this letter may be found and sent to you. I write you a letter of farewell. I want you to think well of me and my end. Goodbye – I am not at all afraid of the end, but sad to miss many a simple pleasure which I had planned for the future in our long marches. We are in a desperate state –frozen feet etc., no fuel, and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and our cheery conversations…. We are very near the end…We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved like this, but we have decided to die naturally without.” - I think it might uplift you to stand for a moment by the tent and listen, as he says, to their songs and cheery conversation.

J.M. Barrie in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’

Looking in the Mirror

 There is a story about a Jewish man who survived the concentration camps. The night after his liberation, he went to stay in a nearby house. There he found about thirty other survivors gathered in the room. Seeing a mirror on the wall, he went over to it. He was anxious to see what he looked like. But in the same mirror he saw the reflection of some other people as well. There were many faces in the mirror. And he could not tell which one belonged to him. He had to make faces and gestures, in order to be able to distinguish himself from the group. And when he did distinguish his own face, he got a terrible shock. Because the person he saw in the mirror was one he had never seen before. He was so changed that the person in the mirror didn’t bear any resemblance to the person he had seen before the war. A strange story but true.

Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’

 The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away!

 There is a sacred story from the Jewish tradition which tells of a certain rabbi and his wife who had two sons to whom they were extremely devoted. One Sabbath morning while the rabbi was teaching the Law in the synagogue, both boys were struck by a sudden illness and died. The mother laid them out on a bed and covered them with a white sheet. When the rabbi came home for his meal and asked where the children were, the wife made some excuse and waited till the rabbi had eaten. She did not answer her husband’s question but instead asked one of him. “I am placed in a difficulty,” she said,” because some time ago a person entrusted to my care some possession of great value which he now asks me to give back. I am unsure of what to do. Am I obliged to return these great valuables to him?” “That you should need to put this question surprises me” the rabbi replied. “There can be no doubt about what you must do. How can you hesitate to restore to anyone what is his own?” The wife then rose from the table and asked the rabbi to follow her. She led him to the room where the two bodies lay and pulled back the sheet. “My sons, my sons,” groaned the father in pain. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away,” said his wife through her tears. “Blessed be the name of the Lord. You have always taught me to restore without reluctance what has been lent to us for our happiness. We have to return our two sons to the God of all mercies.” –Like the Jewish women in the story, we are consoled by our faith in difficult times. Of course, faith does not banish our sense of loss, but it affirms the great truth that all life is a gift from God. Who we are is what we have been given. Death is not a door in the dark, but a dark door into the light.

Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Heart’

One day a priest was preparing a group of children for the sacrament of Confirmation. He wanted to know how much the kids understood the Church’s teaching on Final Judgment. He asked one of the little boys, “What will God say on Judgment day to those who have led a very good life on earth?” Without any hesitation the boy replied, “Come and enter heaven and live with me.” The priest asked a second boy, “What will the Lord say to those who have lived a very bad life?” The boy said, “You cannot come to heaven. You will have to go to hell.” Then the priest went on: “Now what will God say to those who are not good enough to enter neither heaven at once nor bad enough to go to hell?” After a pause a little girl put up her hand and said, “God will say, I will be seeing you soon!”

Elias Dias in ‘Divine Stories for Families’

On Dad’s Shoulders

 In Kohima, Nagaland there is a War cemetery, where the allied soldiers who died during the War are buried. On the door of the Cemetery, it is written, “Tell them that we gave our today for your tomorrow.” Like the soldiers of World War II, the memory of our near and dear ones is a reminder that we need to be grateful to them because what we are today is mainly due to their efforts and sacrifices. A Scottish poet has written, “If I have done anything in life, it is because I was able to stand on the shoulders of my dad.”

Elias Dias in ‘Divine Stories for Families’

May we pray for those who have gone ahead of us on the way home!


Politicians in Washington play the gotcha game to perfection. To make matters worse the news media feeds on it. Not only do they feed on it, they feed it, hoping for a national scandal to make themselves appear relevant. These various political events are a fitting context for our scriptural text about hypocrisy.
Listen to what Jesus says about these politicians (in his day they were called Pharisees): "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Now what did Jesus mean? Simply this: The Pharisees made laws. They demanded that the common person follow those laws. But they themselves found ways to get around those laws. Get it? They were not willing to carry the heavy loads they demanded everyone else carry. In a word: Hypocrisy.
In Washington, the standards that the Democrats set for the Republicans, they themselves are not willing to live by. And the standards that the Republicans set for the Democrats, they themselves are not willing to live by. Why? Because if you let down you're guard for one moment and admit that you are wrong, you're political opponents will seize the moment and go for the kill.
I am reminded of a story about England's Prince Philip who was toasted at a banquet once with two lines from the poet John Dryden:
A man so various that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.
The prince liked the lines so much he looked up the rest of the poem:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long:
But, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.
I don't know who that person was who quoted that poem to Prince Philip but he sure got his point across. Washington needs a prophet like that, to step up and expose the abuse, the hypocrisy, the buffoonery. Jesus was that prophet in his day. He demanded honest leadership. Jesus was saying that leaders must guard against hypocrisy and aim toward humility, set aside greatness and strive for servanthood, wait for honor and act now out of duty.
Leadership, the way Jesus described it, is hard to find, even among the religious. It is difficult to find because.... 
Maybe both the best and the worst of us in humanity are far better preachers than we are doers and deliverers of what we preach and teach. And maybe maturity has everything to do with our genuine willingness to bring a greater congruity between our esteemed words and those actions compatible with, not contradictory of, those words. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, loved and valued not just the right deeds, but also the right motives and attitudes. We, being fully human and ever spiritually in need of completion, will often settle for the right deeds and tolerate or overlook the improper attitudes and motives behind them. We do so, in part, because we ourselves are a contradiction in motion, either desiring to do right while we do wrong or overriding contrary emotions and attitudes and doing right anyway.

When one does what's right, but one's heart and mind are not fully in it, one is mastering showmanship. When one has matured enough to choose actions that are first of all very rooted in certain valued attitudes and motives, one is practicing and demonstrating authenticity. To think one thing and to do another might at times carry its own validity, if the doing proves preferable to what the thinking might have otherwise called into action. But to do something good because your mind and heart are greatly convinced and committed to it is not merely a sign of congruency. It's also an authentic witness of a fully persuaded person, with all parts of himself/herself headed in the right direction.

In the Matthew text we are studying, Jesus counsels all followers indeed to do/to follow the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees (v. 3). That's an affirmative response, as far as it goes. But he also calls them, and all other religious types similarly minded in the centuries since, to be more than persons who preach and teach a good line but lack active follow-through (v. 3). In verses 1 and 2, notice first the informal gathering of the crowds and disciples around Jesus. If you and I could imagine ourselves in the midst of such a gathering, I suspect we would consider Jesus being the only one in an esteemed position of authority. The rest of us, regardless of our life-stations before and after the gathering, are merely attentive spectators. Is it not our desire, may we safely say, to move Jesus out of his esteemed seat as teacher/rabbi/Lord? This is not so with the scribes and Pharisees. Verse 2 notes that they "sit on Moses' seat," that is, wherever they might travel, sit, or stand, they have an authoritative air about them that often also carries a kind of arrogance that wants to demote the stature of others nearby. Their humility before God is darkened by their pride and arrogance before others.

The scribes and Pharisees are an interesting kind of person. They are the religious legalists of the day, knowing religious Law down to its every detail. They've trained their minds to carry a vast knowledge of the Law, and their hearts and wills reveal a very deep dedication or burning devotion to God. Could we call this mixture of personhood legalistic lovers of God?

What is it that incurs Jesus' anger, recognized in and between the lines of verses 3b-7? I think it has to do with his wise unwillingness to allow showmanship to pass for authenticity and congruency... 

Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? It is a growth industry. A recent study found that 15.4 million people in the United States were the victims of identity theft in 2016 and in the past six years identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion from people like you and me.
What is identity theft? Identity theft is a serious crime. Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your name, address, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number, even medical insurance account numbers to do you harm.
What are the most common ways to identity theft? According to the U. S. Department of Justice there are several ways somebody can steal your identity. In public places, for example, criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing"--watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number--or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone.
If you receive applications for "pre-approved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their own use without your knowledge. Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location.
Many people respond to "spam"--unsolicited E-mail--that promises some benefit but also requests some identifying data. With this data, a criminal is able to conduct a wide range of crimes. For example: False applications for loans and credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts, fraudulent use of telephone calling cards or online accounts, or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if he were to use his real name. (1)
Have I succeeded in making you paranoid yet? No need to be, but I hope I've helped you be more vigilant. Identity theft is a threat to us all. It could happen to anyone. Of course, you could be a victim of identity theft purely by mistake....


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Humility in Action
One of the best stories of humility I know is that of a man who arrived in 1953 at the Chicago railroad station to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He stepped off the train, a tall man with bushy hair and a big mustache. As the cameras flashed and city officials approached with hands outstretched to meet him, he thanked them politely. Then he asked to be excused for a minute. He walked through the crowd to the side of an elderly black woman struggling with two large suitcases. He picked them up, smiled, and escorted her to the bus, helped her get on, and wished her a safe journey. Then Albert Schweitzer turned to the crowd and apologized for keeping them waiting. It is reported that one member of the reception committee told a reporter, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking."

We've been given a great task - to live in harmony, to weep with the mournful, to laugh with the joyful, to not be conceited. Especially, we are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous. We are to be humble.
Roy T. Lloyd, Charades and Reality

Fall Back
Remember, Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend, officially on November 5 at 2:00 am.  Don't forget to set your clock back one hour!
Admired the Peacock, but Loved the Duck

Carlton Van Ornum tells this story. A large crowd of people gathered near an enclosure in the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston as a peacock slowly spread his great tail and displayed its stunning plumage. The great bird stood erect and noble and strutted regally. Just then an old, dun-colored duck waddled slowly from the pond and passed between the proud peacock and the admiring crowd. Enraged, the peacock drove the duck back to the water. In a moment, the beautiful bird had become ugly with fierce anger. The plain and awkward duck, having returned to its natural habitat, was no longer unbecoming. In the water it swam and dived gracefully, unaware that many eyes were watching. The people who had admired the peacock loved the duck. Each of us was reminded of the dangers of pride, and that happiness comes from just being ourselves.

Jerry L. Schmalenberger, When Christians Quarrel, CSS Publishing Company
Jesus' Criticisms

Here is a list of Jesus' criticisms about religious leadership in his day:

They did not practice what they taught (hypocrisy).
They put heavy burdens on others but not themselves (legalism).
They sought and loved public recognition (pride).
Status, respect and titles were important to them (arrogance).
They locked people out of the kingdom (judgmental).
They established laws to benefit themselves (greed).
They neglected to emphasize justice and mercy (bias).
They were accomplices to silencing the prophets (oppressive).

George Johnson, Critical Decisions in Following Jesus, CSS Publishing Company.

The Young Seminarian
A young seminary graduate came up to the lectern, very self-confident and immaculately dressed. He began to deliver his first sermon in his first church and the words simply would not come out. Finally he burst into tears and ended up leaving the platform obviously humbled.
There were two older ladies sitting in the front row and one remarked to the other, "If he'd come in like he went out, he would have gone out like he came in."
Jesus calls us to a real trust in God and to humble service in his church and world. The temptation is ever before us to exalt ourselves - to impress others, to make a name for ourselves. That was not how Jesus came, nor was it why he came.
Peter J. Blackburn, Humble Before God

All Perfume, No Flowers
The brilliant behavioral scientist Gordon Allport spoke at Appleton Chapel at Harvard University about how a code of ethics, however highly approved, can be a hollow thing without something to back it up. Following the RULES of faith-as if that was all that was required-was likened by Dr. Allport to living on the perfume of an empty vase. It's possible to live, perhaps for a long time, on the perfume of an empty vase, but sooner or later one is thrust into a situation where there had better be some real flowers, not just the aroma, or one is lost.

In our Gospel we see the tragedy of being religious without being the real deal, of placing primary emphasis on outer conduct rather than on inner character. Those to whom Jesus speaks did not recognize their need to be changed. These people may talk a good fight of faith, but when they are forced to fall back upon their inner resources of faith, they discover that the tank is empty. Jesus says, "Don't imitate them for they don't practice what they teach." All perfume, no flowers.

Roy T. Lloyd, Charades and Reality 
Hospitality Outdoes Erudition
One pastor tells of his excitement of bringing into parish membership a university professor. The pastor endeavored to prepare and to deliver better sermons from the pulpit, as this prospective member continued to attend worship. Later, while reflecting with the professor after he joined the parish, the pastor found that the professor's joining had less to do with the sermons he heard and more to do with an elderly woman who consistently made him feel so welcomed and valued. That was what moved him into Christian community. Imagine that: the Christian spirit of hospitality outdid erudition. Servanthood over showmanship wins hearts in many, many places.
Joseph M. Freeman, Where Gratitude Abounds, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.


The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
I Am the Path
The church in the world is a lot like the story that E. Stanley Jones tells of the missionary in the jungle. He got lost with nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He finally found a small village and asked one of the natives if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. "All right," the missionary said, "Show me the way." They walked for hours through dense brush hacking their way through unmarked jungle. The missionary began to worry and said, "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The native said. "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path."

Our path out of the jungle of this world is God in Christ. We may have some Rabbis, Masters, Father's, Teachers, and Reverends, but we are all like the missionary. We rely not upon men but Christ who is our path.
Brett Blair,
Exaltation of the Humble - Service
During the dark days of World War II, England had a great deal of difficulty keeping men in the coal mines. It was a thankless kind of job, totally lacking in any glory. Most chose to join the various military services. They desired something that could give them more social acceptance and recognition. Something was needed to motivate these men in the work that they were doing so that they would remain in the mines.

With this in mind, Winston Churchill delivered a speech one day to thousands of coal miners, stressing to them the importance of their role in the war effort. He did this by painting for them a mental picture....