25Aug 25 August. Saturday, Week 20

1st Reading: Ezekiel (43:1-7)

The glory of the Lord will return to the temple

The angel brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me out of the temple. He said to me: Mortal, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will reside among the people of Israel forever. The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring, and by the corpses of their kings at their death.

Responsorial (Ps 85)

R./: The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land

I will hear what God proclaims;
the Lord–for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land. (R./)

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven. (R./)

The Lord himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (23:1-12)

Through humble honesty we draw near to God

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Walking humbly with our God

In Jesus’ time, the Scribes and Pharisees used tradition and great ingenuity in order to determine God’s will for His people, but often got it wrong. While Jesus admits their right in principle to exercise religious leadership, he sharply criticises the way that they fulfilled their role. “The Scribes and the Pharisees are Moses’ successors as teachers; therefore, observe everything they tell you. But do not follow their example.” In effect, their words are bold but their deeds are puny. Pride and selfishness, lust for honour and power, undermined their moral authority. Jesus condemns their splendid robes and haughty practices: their wide phylacteries, their little boxes containing parchments of scripture, worn on their forehead and left wrist at prayer; places of honour at banquets and the front seats in synagogues; honorific titles like rabbi, teacher and father. (What would he say about titles like “Your holiness,” “Your Eminence,” “Your Grace,” “Reverend and Right Reverend”?)

He did not brand these ritual practices as evil of themselves. Their phylacteries and prayer-scrolls were based on the Scriptures. After urging us to love God with all our heart, soul and strength (Deut 6:4-5), the Torah continues: “Take these words to heart. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad; bind them at your wrist; wear them on your forehead” (Deut 6:6-8). It is not the things themselves but the spirit with which they are used that Jesus cares about. He may seem, literally, to forbid the use of all honorific titles, but remember how often he spoke with Semitic hyperbole (cf., Luke 14:26). In his follow-up, he at once refers to the inner spirit that must motivate external actions: “The greatest among you must be the one who serves. Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, but those who humble themselves shall be exalted.”

A similar insistence on the inner spirit imbues today’s text from Ezekiel. When  his prophetic task is completed and the Spirit-led people have returned to their ancestral land, their temple can be rebuilt. Yet an outward building is not enough. The glory of the Lord must return to dwell again among the people. From the beginning then, God had a mysterious plan that would develop far beyond the dreams of his servants.

(Saint Louis of France)

Louis IX (1214-1270) from Poissy, near Paris, was king of France from the age of twelve until his death at fifty six. He was a patron of the arts and of the church, and went on two crusades, first in his mid-30s in 1248 and then again in his mid-50s in 1270, when he died of plague in Tunis. He is the only canonised king of France.


(Saint Joseph Calasanctius, priest)

José de Calasanz (1557-1648) from Aragon, Spain, was sent to study law as his parents wanted him to marry. Following a grave sickness in 1582 he was ordained priest in 1583. After nine years of ministry in Spain, he moved to Rome where he worked mainly in the instruction of neglected children. In November 1597, he opened the first free public school in Europe. In 1602, he began the Piarists (Congregation of the Pious Schools,) the first religious institute dedicated essentially to teaching.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    My mother once told me about the advice she had received from her mother, a Irish speaking woman of Erris, about priests. ‘Give them due respect and keep your distance.’ My grandmother was thinking of the celibacy of priests and of their power of influence in the community in Ireland, it seems to me. This would be in the 1930s.

    Celibacy could be managed in the strictly controlled system of the old Tridentine Church, where due respect was given and distance kept. Priests were ‘men set apart’, a phrase that strikes me now as very lonesome. The world changed enormously in the 1960s and the tight -knit system of Trent began to unravel like a garment when one loose thread pulls away. Loneliness and isolation are terrible sufferings and many sad stories of abuse of all kinds find their origin there.

    I think celibacy became for many a heavy burden imposed that many were not able to carry. Jesus warns us today about the evil of laying heavy burdens on one another, all in the name of following God’s law. I find in Pope Francis a light of mercy that we now need to listen to and to follow. We need to be humble enough to listen and to learn new ways.

  2. Brian Fahy

    It is more important to be a christian than to be a priest. This thought struck me tonight. I have been a priest for 29 years before I left to marry. I have been a husband and am now a widower. I am also a father and a grandfather. Many titles for many roles in life. But the fundamental title that underpins them all in the community of faith is to be a christian, a follower of the Lord who seeks by God’s grace to be a servant of all.

    In these later days of my life I have struggled as many do when loss and bereavement occur. It can be hard to find joy in life again when loved ones depart. What can bring us happiness, many say. Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. In an old peoples’ home in Rome, in November 2013, Pope Benedict said to his peer group, ‘We must not allow ourselves to become prisoners of sorrow.’ This is the great danger. Our way out of sorrow is in fact the very same way for all stages of life. We will find life again by making our life a service to others.

    In our Church priests were given far more importance than was right or proper. I know ’cause I was there. Now I see that our highest calling is to be a christian. And every good priest is good not because he is a priest but because he is christian.

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