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Dear brothers and sisters!
In this Sunday's liturgy the Apostle Paul invites us to approach the Gospel "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the Word of God" (1 Titus 2:13). This is how we can welcome Jesus' admonishments to our consciences in order to change our conduct and conform to them. In today's [Gospel] passage he upbraids the scribes and Pharisees, who had the role of teachers in their community, because their conduct was openly contrary to the teaching that they insistently proposed to others. Jesus points out that they "say but do not do" (Matthew 23:3); rather, "they tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:4). The sound teaching should be accepted but it risks being betrayed by an inconsistent way of life. For this reason Jesus says: "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example" (Matthew 23:3). Jesus' attitude is exactly the opposite: He first practices the commandment of love, which he teaches everyone, and he can say that it is a burden that is light and easy since he helps us to bear it together with him (cf. Matthew 11:29-30).
Thinking of teachers who oppress others' freedom in the name of their own authority, St. Bonaventure indicates who the true Teacher is: "No one can teach or do or attain the truths that can be known unless the Son of God is present" (Sermo I de Tempore, Dom. XXII post Pentecosten, Opera omnia, IX, Quaracchi, 1901, 442). Jesus sits on the "cathedra" as "the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations" ("Jesus of Nazareth," Ignatius Press, 2007, 66). He is our true and only Master! We are thus called to follow the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, who expresses the truth of his teaching through fidelity to the Father's will, through the gift of himself. Blessed Antonio Rosmini writes; "The first teacher forms all the other teachers, as he also forms all of the disciples themselves because [both] exist only on account of that first tacit but powerful teaching" ("Idea della Sapienza," 82, in: "Introduzione alla filosofia," vol. II, Roma 1934, 143). Jesus also roundly condemns vainglory and observes that acting "to be admired by people" (Matthew 23:5) puts one at the mercy of human approval, threatening the values that constitute personal authenticity.
Dear friends, the Lord Jesus presented himself to the world as a servant, completely stripping himself, and lowered himself to the point of giving the most eloquent lesson of humility and love on the cross. From his example there flows the proposal of life: "Whoever wishes to be greatest among you will be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). Let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy and pray, in particular, for those in the Christian community who are called to the service of teaching that they may always witness by deeds the truths that they transmit with words.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present. In the Gospel of today's liturgy, Christ urges us to combine humility with our charitable service toward our brothers and sisters. Indeed, may we always imitate his perfect example of service in our daily lives. I invoke God's blessings upon all of you!
[Concluding in Italian, he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]