In my conversations with people who come to me for advice, I have often mentioned how important meditation practices have been to me, and recommended that people adopt some kind of meditation exercise. Then, last weekend in my homilies I mentioned how my own practice had helped me see our interrelatedness. Yet, as I was preparing for last weekend, I realized how lax I had become in this area. Thankfully, because of that I renewed my commitment to centring prayer—and I invite any of you to hold me accountable, by checking in with me to see how it’s going. I do not want to become like the scribes and the Pharisees whom Jesus criticizes in this weekend’s gospel passage, telling others to do whatever they teach but not what they do. That hits a little too close to home.
Jesus also tells people not to use titles: rabbi, father (ouch!), instructor. Yet, Paul uses titles often. How are we to understand this passage, then? I think that what Jesus is saying here is that we are never to use titles that separate us from one another. Just as last week’s passage emphasized our unity, one with another, here Jesus is teaching us about humility. We are equals. Anything I do that separates myself from you goes against loving you as myself. If I place myself above you, we are separated. Likewise, if I tell you to act in a certain way, yet don’t do that myself—do as I say, not as I do—then I am saying that I am so special I can get away with an easier standard. So, it’s not so much about what titles we choose to use with each other. Rather, I think Jesus’ words have much more to do with choosing to put myself on a different level than you are. The apostle Paul was humble enough to work hard so as not to be a burden on the Christian community in Thessaloniki. Any gift he had was used in service towards others. I pray that I may follow his example.