“Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” -Matthew 23:3
My own church community, the Roman Catholic Church, has embarrassed me many times. The Crusades, the Dark Ages, the rejection of solid science, the wealth, the political corruption of popes, the abuse of children, liturgies full of rigidity, the marginalization of certain “types” of people...the list can go on and on. There have been quite a few times in my life when I’ve wondered, “How much is too much? At what point is it worth it anymore?”
I think I’ve learned a lesson, though. I’ve learned that when I am feeling this embarrassment about my Church, it is usually when I am not making an effort to be close to my best friend, Jesus. The embarrassment comes when I am placing my faith in the hands of something temporal: the actions of other people in my Church.
While I certainly seek full unity of heart with everyone in the Church, I’ve come to see that when I place my faith in the example or actions of others, that is a burden that no one can handle. I know for one thing that I cannot handle that burden, so why do I place that on others?
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel hit right at the heart of this. He is acknowledging the teaching authority the Scribes and Pharisees have (much like the authority we believe our Church leaders have), but he is reminding his disciples to not place their faith in the teachers themselves. His invitation is to a faith in the one who is the Servant of all, the One who takes all the burdens on Himself.
Let this be our prayer today:
Jesus, my dear friend, it is so hard for me to remember who you are for me. It can be so hard for me to let you be everything for me. I need your help today to do this. I need you to help me keep my attention on you. I can taste the freedom you bring when I let you do this. You are the ultimate example for me. Thank you for even a tiny glimpse of this example. Amen.