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.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away!
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
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.
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?"
2) “Just get me a battleship then.”
3) "And also with you!" An Army Major was attending a military ball at a fancy hotel and made the
mistake of standing by the entrance in his formal dress mess uniform. An arriving guest thought this
officer was the doorman and handed him his bags! We sometimes order God around, forgetting that
He’s the Master, and we live for Him. But God chooses to correct us occasionally as He did one
Lutheran pastor who always started each service with "The Lord be with you." The people would
respond, "And also with you.” But, one Sunday he thought the PA system wasn’t working when
he tried it, so the first thing he said was, "There’s something wrong with this thing!” The people
responded, "And also with you!"
3) Greatness of humble people: In 1884 a young man died. After the funeral, his grieving parents
decided to establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of
Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked them what he
could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said, "Perhaps you
have in mind a scholarship." "We were thinking of something more substantial than that... perhaps a
building," the woman replied. In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as being too expensive
and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this plain pair had gone elsewhere and
established a memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford.
They gave $26 million dollars!
4) Human stubbornness: In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia.
Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster
was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology
problem like radar malfunction or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain
was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
5) Nobody likes hypocrites. When two prominent evangelists were revealed to have indulged in certain sexual sins a couple years back, the hue and cry was widespread. It was not that they were the only persons in our society who have committed such sins. In fact, polls indicate that the majority of Americans have indulged at some time or another in illicit moral behavior. The outcry was rather over their hypocrisy. They preached one thing and practiced another.Recently, there has been a minor hubbub over the Sierra Club. Officials of this important force in the environmental movement have recently admitted that they don't use recycled paper in their lushly illustrated nature calendars. Why not? They say that photographs do not reproduce well on recycled stock. Two Denver area club branches, calling that stance hypocritical, have stopped selling the annual fundraising calendars, and a state chapter official warns a "real revolt" is possible among members statewide. "As a group, we can't walk one way and talk another way," said Michael Reis, a spokesman for another branch. "How can we take a hard stand in promoting recycling when our own group doesn't use recycled paper?" Other branches are being equally vocal. The Sierra Club faces some hard choices. There is one sin that the American public will not forgive and that is hypocrisy. That does not mean, however, that the American public cannot be guilty of hypocrisy.
6) Angry peacock or ugly 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.
7) Mosquito or honey bee: If you think a mosquito is small and has little influence, try sleeping in a hot room at night with but a single blood-sucking insect. Its high-pitched whine and sharp proboscis can leave you sleepy, itchy, and furious. On the other hand, consider the lowly honeybee. One single winged creature lurching from flower to flower can make the heart leap for joy as it brightens your day, spreads pollen about, and makes honey in the hive. We mortals, not unlike mosquitoes and honeybees, have our own influence. We can be the bane of a room or the blessing of a family. Here in the text, Jesus talks about it all with a group of religious leaders of his own day.
8) I am going to vote for? I am reminded of a story about Theodore Roosevelt. During one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on him at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?" "Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here." This is hypocrisy. As we go to the polls next time I know whom I am going to vote for. Let me tell you, I am going to vote hypocrisy out of office and humility in. I am going to vote greatness out and servanthood in. I am going to vote public honors out and duty in. That's whom I am going to vote for, and I wish it were that simple. Truth is, leadership, the way Jesus described it, is hard to find, even among the religious.
9) “All my life I've been a nobody.”
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long.”
11) The proud scientist:
13) Proud officer: A newly-commissioned colonel had just moved into his office. A private entered with a tool box. To impress the private, the colonel said "Be with you in a moment, soldier! I just got a call as you were knocking." Picking up the phone, the colonel said "General, it's you! How can I help you?" A dramatic pause followed. Then the colonel said "No problem. I'll phone Washington, and speak to the President about it." Putting down the phone, the colonel said to the private "Now, what can I do for you?" The private shuffled his feet, and said sheepishly, "Oh, just a little thing, sir. They sent me to hook up your phone!”
16) The Lesson of a lifetime:
19) 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).
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.
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.
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.
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.
Was everything by starts, and nothing long:
But, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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....