31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10; Ps 131:1, 2, 3; 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13; Matthew 23,1-12
Nowadays, photographs cannot be taken at face-value for they can easily be modified and tampered with by even simple computer programs. So, if there is a need to validate the integrity of pictures, experts go deeper into the meta-data, that is by analyzing information surrounding particular data down to the minutest pixels. Digital images are made up of varied shades of pixels and so how pixels co-relate with each other reveals the integrity or non-integrity of the image in question.
Jesus in the Gospel reading today, reminds the crowds and the disciples about the value of integrity. Simply put, integrity is the coherence of one’s actions with one’s words. This is what was lacking in the Scribes and Pharisees who hold the religious teaching authority of the time. The Lord cites their hypocrisy: their tendency in saying and not doing, or in doing only to be seen by others. The Lord feels sorry for those who know the truth only by mind but not by heart, so much so that their words and actions do not co-relate.
Today the Lord reminds us to check the meta-data not only of those around us but also of our own selves. How do my thoughts, words, and actions come together in a single and consistent identity? Do I have a distinct home persona, work persona, social persona, religious persona, or political persona – that comes out exclusively at particular times, places, and circumstances? How am I present to God, to my family, to my friends, to my co-workers, to my community?
We may deceive others, even ourselves, but not God. As the prophet Malachi proclaimed, “cursed is he who deceives, one who does not keep his word,” – saying one thing and doing another. And St. Charles Borromeo also reminds: “Be sure that you first preach by the way you live.”
Jesus presents himself as the true guide and mentor and says to call no one but him as teacher, for he does not only know the truth. He himself is the Truth. We can indeed realize the wrong choices we make here and there in reference to His teachings, to His life, to His example.
Jesus the teacher, in discrediting other claimants is claiming for Himself the sole authority. For truly only He Himself can lead us to the fullness of life with the Father. Other false claimants fall short and only lead us astray. And as we heard early this morning at Vigils from the Angelus Message of the late Pope Benedict in 2011, St. Bonaventure points out that “No one can teach or practice or reach knowable truths unless the Son of God is present.”
The Lord fully knows and understands the challenges we face to be true to Him. In his love and mercy, he offers himself to be our guide and companion. And remember, he allows U-turns. In humility, we may always turn back to him, to his ways. May we, with the psalmist say, O Lord, my heart is not proud.
Let us pray that we may be true disciples, someone who encounters, recognizes, listens, and follows the true teacher. As St. Benedict exhorts, let us prefer nothing to Christ.