Summary: Yet Paul refers to himself as a spiritual father.
Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs tells about a lady from Texas named Mae who confessed to doing something that was quite embarrassing.
She says that a few years ago she and her husband invited a couple to their home for dinner. The couple brought a pot of tulips as a gift. She says the tulips were not particularly pretty. They were in a clay pot with the with the bulbs partially sticking up out of the soil and they were an ugly color, but these were friends whom they saw often, so Mae wanted to take care of the tulips simply because they were from them.
She nurtured this plant, watered it faithfully, fed it plant food, set it outside in the spring, and brought it back into the house before the first freeze. She says she couldn’t throw it away as long as it was blooming.
One afternoon about two years later, her youngest son absentmindedly reached over and rubbed the tulip petals.
“Don’t touch those, honey,” Mae said, “it could cause spots.”
She was stunned by his reply, “Mom, this plant isn’t real!” he said.
Sure enough, he was right. For two years Mae had nurtured a silk plant.
“It did seem exceptionally hardy,” Mae confesses.
Sometimes that which is false has a hardier life than that which is real. And because the scribes and Pharisees could not keep it real, Jesus tells us in our Gospel today that, “They preach but do not practice.”
We call that being a hypocrite….but not so fast…...in an interview in the magazine The Door, famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck tells about the first time he went to hear the Swiss physician Paul Tournier, one of the most influential Christians in the world at that time. Following Tournier’s lecture there was a time of dialogue where a man asked, “Dr. Tournier, what do you think about all the hypocrites in the churches of America?”
Stumbling over the English words, Tournier apologized and said he did not understand the word “hypocrite.” Several people offered definitions. “Phony, pretending to be something that they’re not, unauthentic, false.” Suddenly the doctor’s eyes lit up. “Ah, hypocrites, now I understand … C’est moi! C’est moi. I am the hypocrite.”
What he meant was the closer you are the Jesus, the more you measure your life by his life, and that of the lives of the saints, so the more aware you are of your shortcomings.
The main teaching our Readings today is about having integrity and that fundamentally, despite all the differences among us, Jesus’ disciples are all equal: “you are all brothers,” we hear today in our Gospel text. Jesus is stressing the fundamental equality of all disciples; it’s a warning against the sinful desire or affection for honorific titles, but not against the use of titles, per se.
For example, in Jewish literature, “father” refers to contemporary religious leaders, and great men of the past, like Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, so Jesus is urging his disciples not to rely on their Jewish ancestry but on their new and unique relationship to their Father in heaven.
Yet St. Paul refers to himself as a spiritual father in his writings in the New Testament (1 Cor. 4:15, Phil. 2:22, Philemon 10), and Stephen and Paul address the Jewish crowds with the words, “Brothers and Fathers” (Acts 7:22; 22:1).
Jesus also says don’t call anyone Master, yet, for example, Protestant seminaries bestow the Master of Divinity degree of their graduates and furthermore, the titles Mister and Mrs. are forms of the word “Master.”
Also Jesus said don’t call anyone rabbi which means “My great one” in Hebrew, and don’t call anyone teacher. Yet, many religious leaders today like to be called “Doctor.” The word “doctor” originally meant “teacher.”
The basic idea is that Fatherhood or having a Master's degree or being a teacher, all of that must be subordinate to All Holy God, and the one Master, Jesus Christ. There is but one ultimate authority—a loving God, in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Eg- An experienced missionary priest came back from working for decades abroad. He spoke to a large group of seminarians who were in training to be missionaries.
The experienced priest said, “None of you have a mission.”
The seminarians said to themselves, “what does he mean that ‘none of us has a mission’? after all, we are all preparing to spend our lives as missionaries, are’nt we?.”
Then the speaker explained, “None of you have a mission; the Church has a mission, and we just share in it.”
That is what Jesus teaches in our Gospel today. The basic idea is that Fatherhood or having a Master's degree or being a teacher or a Jewish rabbi,… all of that must be subordinate to All Holy God, and the one Master, Jesus Christ.