Gospel Reflection: Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malvern Minute



NOVEMBER 5, 2017


You have but one Father in heaven

And one master, the Christ.



A reading from the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew:  23: 1-12

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

                         But whoever humbles himself will be exalted.


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.  For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  Do not be called ‘Master‘; you have but one master, the ChristThe greatest among you must be your servantWhoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Gospel of the Lord


REFLECTION provided by Monsignor Joseph T. Marino

One cannot help but read this Gospel passage in light of the proclamation from God recorded in the following verses from the Book of the Prophet Malachi which is the first reading for this Sunday:


And now, O priests, this commandment is for you…. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter…. You do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions.


It is not easy being a priest in this period of time in the Church, especially with all the scandals associated with priests.  I cannot imagine any priest while preparing his homily on these bible passages not first preforming a serious examination of his own conscience.  The last thing in the world a priest should want is that these words of God are being directed to him personally: You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter….


At the time of the writing of this Gospel, it was old news that Jesus and the religious leaders of His time disagreed strongly on many points of teaching and practice.  However, there is strong evidence that Saint Matthew was not only referring to Scribes and Pharisees of old.  He was also addressing the leaders of Christian communities of his day that were acting like Scribes and Pharisees of old. 


It is not wrong to address a priest or another member of the Christian community as teacher, as long as they teach exactly what Jesus teaches.  It is not wrong to identify a priest or a father of a family with the title of father as long as they clearly represent the Father in Heaven.  It is not incorrect to assign the title spiritual director or master to another as long as that one represents in word and deed Christ, the Lord.


While the Second Reading during Sunday Mass is not normally connected thematically to the First Reading or the Gospel, this Sunday obviously is an exception.  Saint Paul in writing to the Thessalonians describes well the type of person a priest or other Christian leader should be:


We were gentile among you, as a nursing mother for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well so dearly beloved had you become to us.


Definitely this is the vision of God for His priests, teachers, fathers, and all who minister in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church.  Saint Matthew preserves this vision very clearly, and one might say very sternly.  To modify Saint Matthew’s words slightly, we are truly all brothers and sisters in Christ.  Saint Matthew reveals a Jesus who rejects any semblance of superiority or pride associated with these titles.  The issue at hand is the un-Christian attitude or behavior that one is greater than another, for we are all sinners and we are all brothers and sister in Christ — The greatest among you must be your servant.


So, while the Scriptures speak so clearly to the disposition and behavior of priests, it is also clear that it includes all who are involved with ministry and hold any leadership position in the Church. In fact, the Gospel truly challenges all of us to examine our consciences in terms of the way we think of one another, the way we speak to and about one another, and the way we treat one another.  Can the world, which is looking at Christianity in a more and more critical way, see that we do truly love one another, and respect one another as brothers and sisters?

Once again, the Gospel accents the first of all spiritual principles upon which all other virtues are built, and that is humility!  The reason why this virtue is first is because it is the way of Jesus Christ:


Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.  Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2: 6-11).


With the grace of God may we all, priests and Disciples of Christ remember and practice:  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”   AMEN!




Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our website for details: MalvernRetreat.com


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