Denial of Grace

Sunday Gospel Reflection
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 23:1-12 | November 5, 2023

Denial of Grace
Carlo S. Dureza

In today’s Gospel, Jesus alludes to the hypocrisy of people by showing religious piety by way of appearances but whose heart’s desire is only self-importance or affirmation from others. Pertaining to the law experts and Pharisees of His time, he cautions us against those who jostle for seats of honor in gatherings or places of worship. Out of their power, they burden people with laws that they themselves do not follow. He asks us to respect authority but to be critical of their actions as they may not do what they say.

Hypocrites are disintegrated people. Their minds, hearts, and actions do not jive or are not in unison with each other. Their actions belie their interiority and there is no wholeness in them. This is Jesus’ message to us in today’s gospel: let us not be hypocrites! May our behavior towards others be genuinely aligned to our motives within us. Let us not pretend to be like God, being in control of everything and being above all the rest. There is only one God, one Father, and one teacher.

An antidote to hypocrisy is humility. As said in the gospel, God exalts the humble and humbles those who make themselves great. We cannot judge people since we are all human, sinners who fall short of humility. But we can learn from them about hypocrisy and humility.

A restaurant owner lost all his businesses because of faulty management. On one occasion, he was found boasting to his moneyed friends about sending his children to Europe for a vacation. He also talked about “establishing” a food business. The next thing that happened was that he and his family moved from their posh home in an exclusive, high-end subdivision to a small, run-down apartment in a scruffy district in the big city.

Another man who has since led a luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle and was highly successful in his career but was aloof and unreacheable to his poor relatives contracted a lingering illness and was confined in a lonely hospice until his death. He descended from the high towers to the ground. It was so sad that he slipped into poverty and depression. During the prime of his health, he would enthrall people with stories of his travels around the world and the places of the rich and famous he had walked through. He ended up in a lonely place. Very disheartening.

The Pharisees and the top-ranking people in Jesus’ time were no different. They resorted to hypocrisy but ended up being humbled by Jesus. In the same way, Jesus humbles us when we encroach into being hypocrites. He checks on us when we are at the verge of disintegration. In humility we receive His grace. In hypocrisy, we deny God’s grace

Jesus calls us to be humble in the face of the world’s temptations because He would like us to have that space in our hearts given to Him only, the space for the grace of humility. By being hypocrites we choose to remove this space and therefore deny ourselves the grace of the Lord to work in our lives.

Let us shun falsity by accepting God’s grace of humility.

Happy Sunday! Godbless! 🌞🙏🏻💟

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