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Encountering Christ in the Gospel | Excerpts from Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's
THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Gospel of Matthew 23:1-12
Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the
Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell
you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind
heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves
will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen
by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and
they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues,
and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But
you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all
brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father,
who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the
Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts
himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The Best Seats
This Gospel concerns, above all, people in high offices and leading positions,
especially in the Church, but also in politics and in other official positions.
It is a Gospel that concerns me as a bishop. It frightens and encourages
me at the same time. It shows the dangers that lurk in the offices of the
Church, and it shows simple ways to avoid these dangers.
He who preaches a lot must especially be on guard that there is not too
great a difference between word and deed, between sermon and life. He who
teaches a lot must take great care lest he demand from others what he is
neither ready nor able to live up to himself.
Anyone who is in a high-profile, high-visibility position is in danger of
gradually acquiring an ever-greater taste for being in the spotlight in
every place, at every festival, at every religious celebration, and-one
must add nowadays-in the media in all its forms.
Jesus does not criticize the fact that there are people who are appointed
to preach and to teach or that there are exalted offices and that these
are associated with certain positions of honor. What he reproaches the scribes
and Pharisees with is their pursuit of recognition, their desire to be seen,
their pushing themselves to the fore, and their craving for honor and making
a good impression on others.
In a very poor plantation village in Sri Lanka, I was received with unimaginable
honors. For days the first visit of a cardinal had been prepared: garlands,
the long road neatly and painstakingly covered with fresh sand, flowers,
music, everything that these poor people were able to muster. When we finally
reached the churcha wretched building-the Jesuit Father, who had been
living there, impoverished, for forty years among his parish children, whispered
in my ear: "Do not believe that these people did all that on account of
Christoph Schönborn. They do it for Christ."
Do not believe you are elevated above others because of your office: "You
are all brothers!" The common ground we share in God counts for more than
the distinctions in offices and honors: "You have one Father, who is in
heaven." Great and small, famous and unknown: we are all children of the
He who does not forget this will remain simple and modest even in the highest
positions. He will understand, above all, that there is only One who is
truly great, before whom we are all small, before whom all our differences,
which we consider so important, are trivial.
He who keeps this in his heart will not exploit a high office for himself
but will view it as a position of service. The only ones who are truly great
are those who, even "way up", keep serving and are thus close to their fellowman.
I know our Pope to be such a person, which is why I do not shy away from
calling him "Holy Father". Anyone who is a servant to such an extent is
truly a father to many.
THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13
"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their
lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five
were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with
them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps, As the bridegroom
was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry,
'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose
and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some
of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps
there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and
buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and
those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door
was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open
to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch
therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
So Be Ready!
The three Sundays that yet remain until Advent turn our eyes to the final
things of life and the world. Some day we will have to give an account of
ourselves. The pilgrimage on earth comes to an end for every individual
in the hour of death, for mankind as a whole in the Final judgment, on "Judgment
Day". Not to prepare yourself for this, to be unprepared, is unwise, foolish.
The two parables on this and the following Sunday deal with that.
We used to have "bridesmaids" in earlier times as well. They awaited the
coming of the groom with the bride. If he was delayed-which was not unusual
with the traffic conditions of those times-they had to be able to keep their
lamps burning long enough. That is, they had to make provisions. If the
bridegroom suddenly came late in the night, it was too late to get supplies.
This had to happen earlier, with foresight and wise planning.
The parable has different levels of meaning. First, there is the very simple
and practical sense of the virtue of prudence. He who neither plans, thinks
ahead, nor is prudent can expect bitter surprises in an emergency. This
is just as true for the family budget as it is for a business and even for
the state as a whole.
But Jesus obviously has even more in mind. It is about more than just the
requisite prudence in the affairs of the world. The image of the wedding
banquet is talking about the kingdom of God, the world to come, and it talks
about the things we have to do and the things that we have to refrain from
doing to keep from losing the eternal life of heaven.
Our life on this earth is a time of preparation. Some day, we do not know
when, this will also mean for me: "The bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet
him!" For in the hour of death, as we believe, the moment has come for going
out to meet God. But then it will be too late to get another supply of oil
quickly for my lamp. I must be ready and have made provisions already.
Only before my final hour can I do something about itafter
that, it is too late. Jesus says this in various parables in order to make
us aware of how precious the time is, how we must make good use of it to
be "ready at all times".
This also explains a section in this parable that shocks many people. When
the foolish "bridesmaids" ask the wise ones: "Give us some of your oil",
they receive a curt reply: "Then there will not be enough for us and for
you." What has happened to sharing; where has brotherly love gone? Jesus
seems to want to say exactly this here: The time for sharing and brotherly
love is now, here and today! Anyone who constantly puts it off, who does
not provide for it daily, will in the hour of death find it too late to
obtain the oil of good deeds quickly.
This is therefore the ultimate point of this parable-and of the next: Be
alert, for you know neither the day nor the hour. So live in such a way
that you are always ready to die, to go before the face of God.
Jesus: Encountering Christ in the Gospel
Who is Jesus Christ? People have been asking this question for 2000
years. The search for the answer begins with the four Gospels, but how are
they to be understood? Sunday after Sunday, Cardinal Christoph Shönborn,
one of the leading candidates in the recent papal election, explains the
Gospel in understandable words. By following the Gospel of Matthew over
the course of a year, there emerges a comprehensive picture of Jesus presented
in this book. Includes beautiful illustrations from various epochs of
Christian art history.
"Cardinal Schönborn convincingly brings home the truth and power
of the Gospel image of Jesus. If you have lost touch with Christ, you will
find him again. Disciples of Christ will discover new strength, conviction,
and joy in this fresh expression of the reality of your Jesus and mine."
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., Author, A Drama of Reform
"Cardinal Schönborns reflections on the Gospel offer heart-warming
food for thought not only for priests, but also for lay persons who want
a personal encounter with Jesus the Savior." Fr. Kenneth Baker,
S.J., Editor, Homiletic and Pastoral Review
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
He was the general editor of the Catechism
of the Catholic Church, co-author (with Cardinal Ratzinger) of Introduction
to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the author of God's
Human Face and Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The
Creed (Vol. 1), The
Sacraments (Vol. 2), Life
in Christ (Vol. 3), and Paths
of Prayer (Vol. 4).
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