31st Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 5, 2023
Are you feeling comfortable right now? I am not speaking about being comfortable in the new pews! After listening to these passages from the Scriptures, especially the words of Jesus in the Gospel, we should probably be feeling uncomfortable. We often think of the Bible as something that brings us comfort, but if we are reading it properly then sometimes it should be something that makes us uncomfortable.
As a priest, the words of Jesus about the Scribes and Pharisees make me uncomfortable. Jesus says, “do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” “They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” “They love… places of honour at banquets,… to be greeted with respect…”Do these words apply to me as a priest?
Pope Francis has spoken often about the harm to the church of clericalism. What is that? When one sees himself as superior to the people, sees himself as being over them. When he speaks down at the people, putting burdens on others. The priesthood must be rooted in a servant and humble mentality. Jesus says, “the greatest among you will be your servant.” “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” This must be the vision of any Catholic priest.
But, these words of Jesus do not apply just to priests today. They should make many of you uncomfortable. It is a vision of authority and leadership. Anyone in a position of authority should be challenged by these words of Jesus.
Who might this apply to? Teachers, parents, Police officers, CEO’s, politicians. Anyone in any position of authority needs to see themselves not as being over others, but as servants. Anyone in any position of authority needs not to desire to be exalted, but rather to serve others with humility.
– Teachers are not over their students, they are servants of their students.
– Parents are not over their children, they are servants of their children.
– Police officers are not over people in the community, they are servants of the people.
– CEO’s are not over the employees in their company, they are servants of the employees.
– Politicians are not over the citizens, they are servants of the citizens.
This Gospel vision of authority is completely different from what we often see in our world.
We are living in a dark moment of history. We see great divisions, we see destructive wars. Whether Russia in Ukraine or now the war in the Middle East, in Israel and Gaza.
In all of these situations, the problem is with the vision of authority. Authority as being over others, power over others, domination of others. Authority that relies on guns, bombs, military spending. Of course, none of this will ever bring true peace.
The only hope for peace is found in the Gospel vision of authority. We need political leadership that embraces a humble, servant leadership. Leaders who do not see themselves over others but as true servants.
We want the Word of God to bring us comfort. But, it is probably more valuable and important when the Word of God make us uncomfortable. Today’s Gospel offers us a vision of authority and leadership rooted in service and humility. It is a vision of authority needed in our world, in our church, in our families, in our communities. Do not desire to be over others, but to serve others.