Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9,13, Matthew 23:1-12
The Thoroughfare to Greatness and Downfall
In a world that often measures greatness by material possessions, power, and fame, the path to greatness lies in self-glory, pride, selfishness, quest for power and intimidation of opponents. Man holds firm to these while forgetting that these will only give one momentary glory that lacks true greatness.
In the midst of these, Jesus affirms that the true path to greatness is by the selfless act of service. Throughout history, we see how individuals who embraced service have left a lasting impact on society, while those consumed by pride have met with downfall.
Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun of Albanian origin, dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata, India. Inspired by her faith, she founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, an organisation that provided care, refuge, and support to the marginalised and forgotten.
Mother Teresa’s selfless service was driven by her deep compassion for the suffering. She tirelessly worked towards improving the lives of those living in poverty, offering them love, dignity, and comfort.
Hence, her commitment to serving others, especially the destitute, inspired countless individuals to join her cause and extend a helping hand to those in need.
Despite facing numerous challenges and criticism, Mother Teresa never wavered in her dedication to service. Her work earned her international recognition, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Her legacy of compassion and service continues to impact lives and serves as a reminder that greatness is achieved through selfless acts of service.
Mother Teresa demonstrated that by putting the needs of others above their own and dedicating themselves to serving humanity, they were able to achieve greatness.
Their examples inspire us to embrace a life of service, reminding us that true greatness lies in making a positive impact on the lives of others and not on selfishness.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells His disciples “The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’.
This reveals that humility and service are the thoroughfare to greatness but pride leads to downfall.
The Perils of Pride and Selfishness: Thoroughfare to Downfall.
Pride blinds us to our faults, feeds our ego, and separates us from God and others. The Bible reminds us that pride goes before a fall. It is the gateway to destruction and self-deception.
Pride hinders relationships, creates divisions, and breeds arrogance. Therefore, it robs us of the joy that comes from genuine connection and meaningful interaction with others.
In the first reading, Prophet Malachi conveys a message from God addressing the priests. It highlights their failure to honour God and uphold their responsibilities faithfully. God expresses disappointment in their lack of reverence, love and equity.
God condemns the priests for not rendering their service properly. They forgot to glorify and honour God through their services. God warns them that there will be curses upon their blessings if they do not honour God’s name and correct their ways.
The Prophet accuses the priests of turning people away from the right path through their teachings, violating the covenant God made with the tribe of Levi (a reference to the priestly tribe)and showing partiality in their administration.
This underscores the negative effect of pride and selfishness. Instead of focusing on their service to God and treating the people with equality and fairness, the priests do otherwise. God questions the reason people would profane the covenant by being unfaithful to one another.
Therefore, when we become so selfish and proud, we lose sight of our own limitations and the value of others and hence go against what God truly demands.
God’s warning in this reading, is a sign that pride and selfishness can separate us from God, just as it separated the devil from eternal bliss. The thoroughfare to downfall is selfishness and pride. Garb yourself in them, you are already bound to fail.
The Word of God demands Obedience and Attention.
In the second reading, Saint Paul shows how grateful He is to God because of the change of heart and life of the Thessalonians after they received the gospel.
Therefore, Saint Paul says that He thanks God for them because as soon as they heard the message of the gospel, they accepted it for what it really is as God’s message and not some human thinking.
In essence, this is unlike the priests in the first reading, who paid blind attention to the word of God and focused only on themselves.
Before the gospel of today, which came from Matthew 22, Jesus engaged in discussions and debates with religious leaders, challenging their authority and teachings. Then in today’s gospel, Jesus addresses the crowds and his disciples.
He acknowledges the authority of the scribes and Pharisees, that the scribes and Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses. Saying this implies that they have the authority to interpret and teach the Law. Therefore, Jesus encourages them to do what they teach them and listen to what they say.
Therefore, Jesus acknowledges that we have to obey and listen to the teachings of our religious teachers because of who they present.
We have to pay attention to the word of God and not become deaf to it because we know the weaknesses of the preacher. We have to know that the word of God demands nothing but our attention and obedience to it. When we do this, we shall finally discover the power of service as contained in the word of God.
Therefore, another thoroughfare to greatness is obedience to the word of God and keeping to it. When we live by His word, we are already keeping to the guidelines for victory and breakthrough. It is the guideline to greatness.
Therefore, when we read how Jesus extols the power of service, we do not read and hover over it, rather we read and put them into practice. It is then we shall fully understand what Saint Paul says in the second reading that the word of God is a living power among all who believe it.
Warning Against Their Hypocrisy.
In the gospel, Jesus immediately criticises the actions of the religious leaders, highlighting their hypocrisy. He notes that they say one thing but do not practise what they teach.
They make burdensome demands on others but do not help or support them.
Jesus accuses them of pride. They are only interested in seeking attention, personal glory and honour.
Jesus highlights their desire for recognition and prominence, noting their love for being seen and praised by others. He contrasts this with the need for humility and true service in the Kingdom of God.
Similar to the first reading where God warns about the priests’ failure to live according to God’s ways and causing others to stumble, Jesus warns the Pharisees and the scribes that everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
This shows that the easiest way to lose focus of our responsibilities to God is to focus only on personal glory and the self.
This holds a lesson for individuals in positions of leadership or influence. It highlights the responsibility to lead with integrity and avoid leading others astray.
Therefore, when individuals become solely focused on their own achievements and status, they may lose sight of important relationships, ethical considerations, and the impact of their actions on others.
This tunnel vision can lead to isolation and a lack of empathy, which can ultimately result in a downfall. So, the thoroughfare to downfall is constantly seeking personal and vainglory.
This is the reason many today, put their hands where they would not have. This is the reason many have put themselves in bondage just because they want to belong. This has led to the downfall of many.
Humility and True Greatness.
In the gospel, Jesus instructs His disciples on the importance of humility and genuine greatness.
He tells them not to seek titles or exaltation, but to serve others with a humble heart. He emphasises that the greatest among them will be those who humble themselves and serve others selflessly.
This entails that true greatness comes through humble service rather than seeking prominence. By seeking unnecessary glory, many have dipped their hands in blood, many have made a lot of mistakes and a lot of people have wandered from the true way of Christ.
Many have gone back to idolatrous practices, while some have soiled their hands in ritual sacrifices all in the name of answering great man or great woman. True greatness does not entail those, they will come and go. True greatness comes through humility and service.
Understanding this passage allows us to reflect on our own attitudes towards leadership and service, challenging us to cultivate humility and genuine love for others in our own lives.
In the gospel, Jesus teaches us that greatness does not come from seeking positions of power, titles, or recognition. Rather, true greatness is found in selfless service to others. It is not about exalting ourselves but about lifting others up.
Leadership is Not About Controlling and Dominating.
When we strive to serve others, we align ourselves with God’s own heart. Jesus himself exemplified this truth by washing the feet of his disciples. He demonstrated that leadership is not about controlling or dominating, but about loving and serving.
On the other hand, pride can lead us down the path of downfall. When we become consumed with our own achievements, status, and self-importance, we lose sight of what truly matters.
Pride blinds us to the needs of others and hinders our ability to empathise and connect with them. As we navigate through life, we must be cautious of the pitfalls of pride.
It can tempt us to think we are superior, causing division and alienation. But by cultivating humility and a servant’s heart, we open ourselves to real relationships and meaningful connections.
So, embracing humility and service transforms our perspective. It allows us to see each person we encounter as a valuable individual deserving of love and respect. It creates a ripple effect, inspiring others to also embrace a life of service.
Prioritise Kindness, Compassion and Service.
Let us be inspired by Jesus’ teachings and example. May we prioritise acts of kindness, compassion, and service to others. Whether it is through small daily acts or larger initiatives, let us strive to make a positive impact in the lives of those around us. This is the thoroughfare to greatness.
Remember that greatness is not measured by our accomplishments, possessions, or accolades. True greatness is found in how we use our gifts to serve others selflessly. So, let us humbly walk the thoroughfare to greatness through service and avoid the treacherous path of pride that leads to our downfall.
It is easy to get caught up in seeking power, prestige, and recognition in this world. However, Jesus invites us to a different way of life. He calls us to be genuine, to be authentic, and to treat others with kindness and compassion. True greatness lies in our ability to uplift, encourage, and serve those around us.
This reflection challenges us to examine our hearts and check our motives. Are we seeking to be seen as important or are we striving to make a positive impact on those around us? Are we more concerned with gaining recognition or with demonstrating love and kindness to others?
1. In John 13:1-17, Jesus humbly serves his disciples by washing their feet, teaching them the importance of servant leadership. Jesus sets the example for us by humbling himself and washing the feet of his disciples. He reminds us that the greatest among us are those who are willing to serve others selflessly, without seeking anything in return.
2. Also, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), a Samaritan man stops to help a stranger who has been robbed and left for dead, demonstrating the greatness of selfless service.
3. Moses obediently serves God by leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness to the Promised Land, showcasing the greatness that comes from serving God’s people (Exodus 3-4).
4. David’s faithfulness and service as a musician to King Saul not only soothe Saul’s troubled spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-23) but also pave the way for David to become a great king himself.
5. Also, the apostle Paul tirelessly serves God and spreads the gospel, enduring hardships and persecution to advance the kingdom of God. His dedication and service make him one of the greatest figures in early Christianity (Acts 9:1-31).
These examples highlight how acts of selfless service can lead to greatness and impact the lives of others.
So, let us take the teachings of Jesus Christ to heart and strive to be humble in our actions, interactions, and attitudes. This is the thoroughfare to greatness.
1. Jesus calls us to cultivate a spirit of humility and authenticity in our lives. This is the thoroughfare to greatness.
He teaches us that true greatness is not found in attaining positions of power or seeking the praise of others. Rather, it comes from a servant’s heart, a heart that is willing to put others first and meet their needs.
Wherever profession or vocation that you have and whichever business that you do, always put the people first. You will never regret it.
2. We are called to embody the virtues of humility, kindness, and compassion. Jesus invites us to examine our own hearts and motivations. Are we seeking recognition, honour, or titles only? Or are we genuinely striving to serve others and make a positive difference in their lives?
We have to know that being a follower of Christ means imitating his example. Jesus himself washed the feet of his disciples, demonstrating the ultimate act of service and humility. He tells us that the greatest among us are those who humbly serve others without expecting anything in return.
Therefore, let us examine our lives and ask ourselves if we are truly following Jesus’ call to humility and sincere service. Are we genuine in our actions? Are we willing to humble ourselves before others?
3. Many times we underrate the importance of humility. Jesus warned against the prideful behaviour of religious leaders. He emphasises that true greatness comes from a humble heart rather than seeking to exalt oneself above others.
In trying to impress someone many people can no longer save even if it is little. So many have lost their lives, some are now living with regrets, while some are passing through a lot of challenges. Let us always walk in humility.
4. From these, we shall now understand that true exaltation comes from God alone. We do not seek affirmation and recognition from others but focus on our relationship with God, who sees and rewards our efforts and faithfulness. Therefore, seeking exaltation from God rather than seeking it elsewhere is the best.
5. Unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees, let us be true to ourselves. Let us not put an image of someone we are not. Let us not continue to wallow in pretentious lives. One day, the true colours of who we are will showcase itself.
Living a fake life will never lead us anywhere. This is a betrayal of authenticity and integrity. Those who choose to embrace a facade of falsehood are akin to actors on a stage, performing for an audience. This is what Jesus terms as hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is a thoroughfare to downfall. How can one hope to find genuine connections and meaningful experiences when their foundation is built on lies? There is no thoroughfare to greatness here. You may succeed for a moment but not always.
It temporarily deceives others, but it is always a matter of time.
5. Do you constantly feel the need to be praised and recognized by others? Are you dismissive or condescending towards those who are different or have less status than you?
Do you find it difficult to admit your mistakes and take responsibility for them? Are you constantly stepping on others to climb the ladder of success?
Do you believe that your opinions and perspectives are always superior to others, refusing to consider alternative viewpoints?
Let us learn to walk with humility and be true to ourselves.
This is the thoroughfare to greatness. Let us learn how to put others first in all that we do. And then let us learn to serve God and humanity with our whole hearts. We shall never regret it.