Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3/22/11 - Widening Phylacteries and Lengthening Tassels

Matthew 23:1-12

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 Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


Christ tells his disciples to respect the office of the chair of Moses, regardless of the actions of those occupying the chair. He then gives his opinion on those who have that office. We get a taste of this in the verses above.  Immediately after this come the "Seven Woes," in which Christ severely rebukes them. The basic issue here is that the religious elite of the time were more concerned with religious practice, image of piety, and condemnation of others than they were with obeying God. Here are two of the Seven Woes:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
 Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.
The Pharisees exalted themselves, and passed judgment on others. We need to look out for the same trap. 

PS - Note the verse on "calling no man Father." This is a stumbling block for many people with respect to the Catholic Church. We call our own priests "Father." Yet Christ says we should call no one father, or master, or rabbi. What's the deal?

Here are a couple of good answers to that question, written by priests. They are useful to have in mind if this topic ever comes up in conversation.



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