Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
November 5, 2023
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Matthew 23:1–3
Sometimes people’s words inspire us, but more often it is the witness they give with their actions that inspires. Additionally, when someone’s words do not match up with their actions, they are seen as hypocrites. Jesus is very hard on the scribes and the Pharisees for this reason. “For they preach but they do not practice.” They spoke about the Law of God, taught it in a detailed way, but they did not truly practice God’s Law as it was intended to be practiced. Jesus goes on to give a list of the ways that these religious leaders failed to live the laws of God. They failed in their charity and encouragement of others, they did everything for public praise and for show, and they sought out honors and meaningless titles. As a result, they cared little for others and cared much about themselves.
At the heart of Jesus’ criticism of the scribes and Pharisees was their tendency to exalt themselves in the eyes of others. Jesus corrects this tendency by saying that “the greatest among you must be your servant,” and that “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Therefore, if you wish to be truly great and if you wish to be exalted by God, you must serve with the deepest humility.
Humility begins by seeing yourself in the light of truth. How does God see you? The humble soul seeks to discover this insight by using the eyes of Christ to look at their own soul. It would be truly humbling if we could see ourselves in the full light of the truth. But too often we take on a false image of ourselves and look at our lives through a lens of self-righteousness. We tend to quickly defend our actions, justifying the sins we commit and failing to acknowledge our weaknesses.
What would you see if you looked at yourself with humility? One glaring thing you will see is your sin. Our lives are filled with sin. Sometimes they are serious sins, and at other times less serious, but our lives are undoubtedly filled with sins and imperfections. If we are blind to those sins, then we lack the necessary humility we need to see ourselves in the light of truth.
The virtue of humility will also take us a step further than seeing our sins clearly. It will also help us to see our need for God’s grace in order to change, to love, and to serve God and others. We cannot love by our own efforts. It is impossible. The love of charity is only possible when it is God Who lives in us and acts through us. God and God alone is able to work true charity through our actions. Knowing and believing this humble truth is the only way to open the door to that grace.
Reflect, today, upon the humility that you need in order to truly love. When you love others with the pure love of God, you will discover within yourself a need to serve. You will see others as objects of your love. You will discover a burning desire to help them, forgive them, be gentle and merciful to them, and to do all you can to help them discover the truth of their own lives so they will, in turn, humbly turn to God. The scribes and Pharisees failed miserably at this mission, and that is one of the reasons that Jesus used them as an example. Do not follow their lead. Seek to take the opposite approach. Seek humility. Seek the truth. If you do, God will use you in powerful ways and will exalt you on high.
Most humble Lord, You are exalted above all because You were humble beyond all. You knew the truth of Who You are and embraced that truth with all Your might. Please give me Your eyes to see myself as You see me, so that in Your humble gaze, I will see my sin, repent wholeheartedly, and turn to You as the source of all my love. Jesus, I trust in You.