In the Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners that they must heed the religious authorities of the people at that time, but must not imitate them, because they are hypocrites and don’t practice what they preach. Then, he seems to turn to the apostles and address to them words intended for their instruction in terms of their future role as the hierarchy of the young Church.
Basically, he tells them to avoid three evils: hypocrisy, arrogance, and factionalism, or divisiveness. On the contrary, he exhorts them to be utterly sincere, humble, and united, since unity is so important in the ministry of truth and morality. Since truth is one and morality is one, if we hear two authority figures preaching two different “truths,” or two different “moralities,” we can be sure that at least one of them is wrong, if not both. Thus, we are likely to lose trust in both of them and simply turn away from truth and morality. This has happened in the case of every religious movement since time began, and we have suffered from it even in the Church. There have been heresies and schisms; there have been immoral popes, bishops, priests, and religious. These things are always a source of scandal and cause a certain number of people to leave the Church and turn their backs upon Our Lord and his gospel.
Jesus tells his apostles not to be called “teacher,” “master,” or “father” in the sense that they are the heads of this or that church or sect or philosophy of religion. There is only one teacher, master and father, and that is God. The reason why we Catholics use the term “father” for our priests is precisely because the priest takes the place of Christ in the leadership of the local church and becomes our father in the fatherhood of Our Divine Lord. Of himself, he is nothing and worthy of no respect or obedience at all.
Let us all try to live according to these guidelines of Our Lord Jesus. Let us try to be humble, completely sincere, and very eager to be loving and obedient members of the Church which is the Body of Christ. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.