Mt 23: 1-12 Heavy Burdens To Carry
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…”
Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. Some months ago, the Italian media began publishing hundreds of personal memos and letters by high ranking prelates working in the Vatican. This scandal, known as “Vati-leaks”, is the stuff of soap operas. It paints a horrible picture of some the personalities working closely with the Holy Father. Not a few of these Cardinals and Bishops appear to be solely interested in advancing their careers. Of course, these individuals (and documents) have become a source embarrassment and distraction for the Church, the Holy Father and the entire people of God. Recently, the Holy Father called the entire Roman Curia together to blast them for their selfish ambitions and personal desires for personal gain. In a nutshell, the Pope told them: When you were invited to work at the Vatican, you were not invited to be served by others, but to serve others. You are not here because you earned it. You are here because you were called. Get to work!
We really shouldn’t be scandalized by what is very human. It’s very human to blame others for my failures. It’s very human to point the finger at others. It’s perfectly normal to make excuses for one’s incompetence. What’s remarkable - rather stunning - is that the Lord did not tell his disciples that the Pharisees were evil men; or that they preached evil things. In fact, He told them that they preached what they were supposed to teach (the truth). But they didn’t practice what they preached; or better yet, they didn’t preach what they practiced. There’s a novelty for you!
And by not doing so, they added extra burdens on sinners! They isolated the open sinners from the hidden sinners.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry. I have noticed that kids always love it when I tell them personal stories about myself, especially of my past mistakes. They love it because they never ever expected it. Actually, they love it because they can relate to it. My hope and prayer for doing so is that they can relate to it in confession! That is one of my goals during a retreat: to get to confession and to get others to go to confession as well.
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed how the lines for communion are always much longer than the lines for confession. I think it’s because we are far more inclined to let others see our good side than our bad side. And this is the problem. It’s not always a good thing. According to today’s Gospel, the Lord’s problem with the Pharisees is not that they not perfect, it’s that they cannot relate to sinners, even though they are sinners themselves. They tie up heavy burdens hard for others to carry because they tie their burdens upon the shoulders of others. In other words, what makes it harder for me to carry my burden is if I think I am the only one carrying any burden at all! If I pick up at how everyone around me is receiving communion, chances are I WILL TOO! If I notice someone crossing their arms and receiving a blessing, I will be more inclined to do the same.
We can make ourselves more accessible (and more relatable) by making ourselves more transparent. It’s not easy. It’s no fun. It’s not without its risks. But it will end up being a bit relaxing for others. What happens when someone opens up their heart to another? The others follow. And even more will eventually follow.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.