This Sunday’s Gospel passage (and the escalating tension between Jesus and some of the Sadducees and Pharisees) delivers to us a stack of “Do not pass go—Do not collect two hundred dollars—Go straight to confession” cards. And if we translated the stack of cards into an examination of conscience, it might look something like this:
- Do I practice what I preach?
- Does my lifestyle or personal mode of operating result in levying heavy burdens (unreasonable expectations) on my spouse, family, associates or other neighbors?
- How much do I have to be recognized, seen, or acknowledged in order to feel validated—have a sense of self worth?
- How much value do I put on a title? Do I ever have enough titles?
- How crushed am I if they forgot to print my name tag or include my name on whatever list? (How out of shape does my nose get?)
Extroverts, “Type A’s,” or the highly competitive and ambitious among us, could certainly have some trouble answering all of the above; but we must not rule out the introvert. An introvert could appear humble (even shy) and unassuming—could, in fact, prefer the last place at banquets—and still be as ambitious, judgmental, and competitive as the next person. Right? One does not necessarily have to be loud and “in your face” in order to “squash you on the way up.”
It is easiest, I suppose, to predicate Jesus’ criticisms of some of the Sadducees and Pharisees on “society,” the government, the Church, or on some other institution. Certainly these are wrought with examples of levying undue burdens, widening phylacteries and lengthening tassels, and relishing rank and title, while not be willing to lift a finger themselves to help out or find solutions. But then, when all is said and done, those very institutions are made up of us, aren’t they? It is only too clear in the gospel that Jesus refers to Sadducees and Pharisees, but he is really addressing and instructing the heart of each one in his hearing. It is the conversion of each of us and our personal decision to opt for the Kingdom that Jesus seeks.
So today we must (each of us) make that examination of conscience, in order to test our own commitment to Christ and to his mission. Today we should assess our own readiness and willingness to ask:
Do I secretly hold (or not so secretly) that I am the greatest, when, actually, discipleship expects me to be the servant of the rest?
Please know this: “Monsignors” have it tough!