Saturday, 23 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD) and bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin tongue, comments on Matthew 23: 1-12 (i.e. today's gospel reading): "No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, 'Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?' Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity. For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father." [taken from Daily Reading and Meditation]
In other words let us not call anyone rabbi, father or teacher unless that person is a rabbi, father or teacher in nature or profession. Respect is one thing, putting people on pedestals is another. Similarly we are not to encourage others to put us on pedestals, that is to lift us (our knowledge, skills, piety, etc.) above others. After all we are called to be servants, and what servant is higher in position than his/her Master? Or his/her fellow servants? Or those he/she serves? Respect and idolization has nothing to do with authority, though. Though Jesus did not like the way the scribes and pharisees commanded the respect of their fellow Israelites, He acknowledges that they do have authority to tell others what to practice and observe. It's just that this authority should not lead to idolization (i.e. putting people on pedestals).

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