Let me start by admitting that I had to look up to see what a phylactery is. Not that I feel that I should be up to date on all Jewish traditions, but I just had to know what it was that these people were widening.
For the record, a phylactery is a small box that holds small tissues with verses from the Torah written on. It is to be a reminder of the law and to be worn during daily prayer. These boxes were held on one’s arms or on their head with the use of straps. I suppose that the thickness of the strap means something.
Clearly this is a message of outward versus inward spirituality. Which is interesting when taken with the first reading, “though your sins may be like scarlet that may become white as snow”. We live in an area where we know what it means to become white as snow. They say that we are expecting another 10 inches this coming Friday night. We will see.
By Saturday afternoon everything will be pure white again. But I don’t really think that the lesson these versus in the first reading. The second reading says, “The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
This is the message for today. Really, this is the message for the entire season of lent. Our messiah has two very different and distinct configurations for us to consider in this Lenten season. The first is the one that we are used to. It is “Christ the Sacrifice”. It is the image of the crucifix behind the altar. It is the image that we see, and experience, every Sunday, every mass. Christ came down from the Father to die for our sins so that we might return through Him to the Father.
The second one is of “Christ the Servant”. Christ washing the feet of the apostles, of Christ consoling the woman at the well, of Christ healing the sick and blind and lame. He is the ultimate realization of “The greatest among you must be your servant. “
We hear in scripture of our need to take care of our brothers and sisters. We are to look out for those less fortunate, those without food or clothes or shelter. And we all know how easy it is to be a part of long-distance caring. Just “click and give”, but here we are called to actually do more than just give, we are called to humble ourselves in service to another.
In James we hear that it is not enough to just wish someone a nice day, or to be well. He tells us that words without actions are dead. Here Jesus goes one step beyond that. Here we are not only called to action, but we are also called to service to the point of humbling ourselves.
Living the Gospel is unquestionably difficult. We are not only called to love, but to love those that hate us. Here we are not only called to service but to do so with an inner spirituality. We are called not to give with fanfare and a show of suffering but in the quite of our hearts.
Lent is an interesting time to try this out. When we are called to fast we are called to do so as if we are full and without want. When we are called to prayer we are called to do so in the quite of our room without attention. And when we are called to service we are called to do so with humility of action and purpose.
Lord, I have given up my pride
and turned away from my arrogance.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms,
so my heart is quiet within me
… trust in the Lord, now and forever!
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
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.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
March 7, 2023
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