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.”
What do we feel when we hear Jesus criticizing the Pharisees? Satisfaction in thinking that his criticism applies to present-day Pharisees we know well. But isn’t such an attitude already the sign of a certain superiority affirming itself: thank God, I am not like those people? Well, if we leave the church after Mass and interiorly congratulate ourselves on not being Pharisees, this is a very bad sign. The true disciples of Jesus, the one who know themselves as weak and prone to sin, are well aware that they have in themselves all the roots of Pharisaism. They know that their first duty is to examine themselves instead of seeking out the Pharisees of their parish.
When we judge and despise others while demanding that they adopt a different behavior from the one they have now, we lay a burden on their shoulders and at the same time we avoid questioning our own behavior. Actually we can all recognize ourselves to a certain degree in the description Jesus makes of the Pharisees.
The truly humble Christian does not refuse the sound advice of someone merely because that someone does not follow his or her own advice or because he or she is hypocritical or conceited. The Lord can use such a person to make us better.
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