Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them. They do everything in order to be seen by people: they wear very wide bands of the law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.
But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, he who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you. Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.
“Do not call anyone on earth your father. Only one is your father, the One in heaven.” Let us notice a few things about these words of Jesus.
First, they clearly formulate a prohibition, not a mere suggestion.
Second, the Catholic Church has always ignored this prohibition, to the scandal of our Protestant brethren. They call their leaders “Pastor,” and nothing else. They obey Jesus. We, on the other hand, give all kinds of extravagant (and often non-Christian) titles to our leaders: Your Excellency, Your Eminence, Your Holiness. This is not the spirit of Jesus. Furthermore, in spite of the latter’s directive, we refer to the Pope as the Holy Father. But the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, that is, his representative on earth, and Christ is our Brother (Mt 12:50). How can the representative of our Brother be our Father?
Third, priests are routinely addressed as “Father.” But this violates Jesus’ clear prohibition. Priests should be called “Brother,” or “Pastor,” or “Shepherd” or something similar.
Finally, since this teaching of Jesus is aimed at correcting those who seek honors, Jesus
is only correcting the honorific use of the title “father,” not its natural use in the family.
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