THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
We All Are Students
First Reading (Mal 1:14-2:1-2,8-10): The priests' behavior caused others to fall
Second Reading (1 Thess 2:7-9,13): The apostles shepherded the faithful with love.
Gospel (Mt 23:1-12): Scolding the scribes and Pharisees
-“While beyond our world, the sage takes everything as it is and engages in no discussion.” (1)
-“When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it, - this is knowledge.” (2)
-“In learning, there is no order of precedence. Whoever succeeds to understand first is the teacher.” (3)
-“Man's life is limited but knowledge is unlimited.” (4)
-“To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained.” (5)
-“To be humble and dare not to lead.” (6)
-“Seeking high and low.” (7)
“Jesus said ‘You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ “ (Ref Mt 23:8-12)
Our Church is called a hierarchical church, one in which the order is from Pope to Bishop to priests to laity, a structure that is one step after another in a descending order. Looked at in this way people easily misunderstand and think that it is a secular organization, a structure of power.
Actually in the mind of Jesus the church's power and order are totally different from secular organizations.
In the church of God there is really only one God who is King of Kings. Only God can tell us what is righteousness, and all worldly kings and priests must carry out the Lord's commands. In this progression, the church's power is the power of love and the power of sacrifice.
St Paul says in the First Letter to the Thessalonians, “Brothers and sisters, we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thess 2:7-8)
That is the Church's hierarchy and the Church's authority – an authority that sacrifices itself for others.
The Pope has the most important position in the Church, but when he signs a document he calls himself “servus servorum” “servant of the servants of God.” That is his authority: bowing down before the church with an authority that lasts till death.
Members of the hierarchy should put God at the center. All of us should bow before Truth and humbly seek God's will. In the Church, whether it is obedience or doctrinal matters, in the end all should listen, reflect, learn and carry out God's Word. The Church is a community whose Center is Christ where all are equal, loving and unified.
Vatican Council II's “Constitution on the Church” states: “And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers, dispensers of mysteries, and shepherds on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ.” (Art.32)
Why, within Christ, can we not be ‘teachers’? It is because we are all students, we are always learning about Truth. Not only individuals must learn, the entire church, all of humankind, must continue to learn.
According to Zhuang Zi, Confucius was a modest and cautious man, one who “While beyond our world, the sage takes everything as it is and engages in no discussion.”(1) “While beyond our world” refers to the six levels: front, back, left, right, interior and exterior. In other words, it is everything beyond our experience. Confucius was “the sage who exists but engages in no discussion”. That is to say he listened attentively and observed closely but did not comment or make judgments. This was because Confucius did not want to judge anything that was beyond his scope of experience and knowledge.
Though we call Confucius “the teacher for all ages” he was not a man who would make statements freely without careful thought. He once said, “When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it, - this is knowledge.”(2) Only those who are as modest as Confucius truly possess profound insight gained from close knowledge of things around them. Only they are worthy of the title “teacher”.
The so-called teachers of this world are called teachers because “In learning, there is no order of precedence. Whoever succeeds to understand first is the teacher.”(3) Our teachers only know a little more than us or they are a step ahead of us. In fact, we are all seekers of the truth; we are all students.
Fully understanding that knowledge was infinite, Zhuang Zi sighed, “Man's life is limited but knowledge is unlimited.”(4) In this world, there is no teacher who is all-powerful and who knows everything.
Not only about knowledge, but also about life, no one can or should blow one's own trumpet. Confucius himself thought that he had many ideals he had not yet achieved and he gave this example: “To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained.” (5) What he meant was that he had not been able to do for others what he wanted other people to do for him.
Confucius was a very modest person. He would never claim that he was a perfect man in terms of knowledge, behavior, ethics and moral standards.
In fact, that is not modesty, it is objective reality. If we think that we know all the things beyond this world or think we are a perfect person in terms of moral standards, then we are only deceiving ourselves.
We have only one teacher, and that is Jesus Christ Let all of us, whether in high position or low, teaching others or being taught, learn continuously under the guidance of Jesus. Let us live a life “seeking high and low”(7), let us resolve to be a hard-working student, from the cradle to the grave.