Fr. Rodrigue Azanmasso, CJM
It is obvious that in all human societies, people expect much from those who have been entrusted with more. In other words, those with authority or power, (civil or religious) those who have been entrusted with any kind of social responsibilities are required to match the ideal which, they have been entrusted with. A mismatch is usually envisioned as a scandal, because a leader is believed to be endowed with special gifts or qualities which are supposed to help him achieve the goals for which he has been chosen.
The chapter 23 of the Gospel according to Matthew allows us to reflect on humility and the danger of religious hypocrisy. Matthew challenges all of us who read and listen to it today. It is common for politicians for instance to seek for popularity, and many other people to struggle to become famous, to be seen and to have the prominent places in public events. This reflection is also valid for our Church. While the texts of Antiquity show that, Christians called themselves brothers and sisters taking the indications of the Gospel in a more literal way. Nowadays, we have no problem to give a series of honorary titles which were created at the pontifical court of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Some of these different titles (father, monsignor, bishop, cardinal, pope reverend etc.) despite their political, and honorific connotation of those times in the church, should not be envisioned as titles of authority and power in a human way.
The important thing is not to denounce these titles by literally applying the words of Jesus, but rather to take care to build a fraternal community in our Church, where responsibility is envisioned as a service. Of course, the best way to do this is probably, to start questioning our own hypocrisy.
This passage of Matthew’s gospel helps us also, to become aware of the radical way in which Jesus addresses the issue. Jesus disturbs our old habits and the settlement in our comfort zones. If Jesus died crucified, it was because he dared to denounce the practices he found unacceptable. Instead of being surprised by Jesus' anger, perhaps we should worry about our difficulty to be disturbed, our numbed conscious, our refusal to listen.
Let us be careful enough so that we will not become the Pharisees and the Scribes of the 21st Century. The warning is not only for the religious leaders but for all of us, we are all invited to build more fraternal communities in which one’s responsibility is for the service and the sake of all the others.