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."
Jesus’ message is quite unmistakable today. He chides the religious authorities for their hypocrisy and rigorism. It is a familiar theme for us and yet it can strike us again in today's reflection. For even if the original phariseeism is placed within the specific cultural setting of Jesus’ time, many of its manifestations can easily creep into our lives too.
“All their works are performed to be seen.” What a devastating verdict! But isn't that something we experience quite a bit ourselves? Aren't we constantly evaluating our deeds through the eyes of those who see us?
Why does it matter so much to us what others think about us? As Jesus states clearly today, that tendency can clearly suffocate the good intentions. However, it also shows a deeper need of recognition, of affirmation. The point is not to be completely indifferent towards our neighbor. In fact, we are relational beings and can only become our true selves in relationship to others. The clue is that the fundamental relationship that lets us become who we are meant to be is between God and us. What we should be concerned about in the first place is to perform our works in His presence and in eye contact with Him.
Jesus, I acknowledge the fact that I care greatly about what others think or say about what I do. Their opinions affect me. Here and now I leave these worries aside for a moment and rather ask: How am I in Your eyes? Who am I in Your mind? How do You see me and how do You evaluate my deeds? Tell me, Lord. For the more I become aware of Your view of me, the less I will worry about what others say. At the contrary: I will be compelled to become a witness of people to think about You. Thus, my deeds can be performed for Your greater glory.