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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Lenten reflection, day 12

About 750 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah preaches a return to faith, promising that God will take care of a troubled people struggling to survive against the Assyrian Empire and an unfaithful king. He compares the nation to the unfaithful people of Sodom and Gomorrah. But then he adds, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.”

In the Gospel, Jesus makes an example of the scribes and Pharisees, criticizing their showy clothes: “They widen their phylacteries and wear huge tassels.” Jesus is trying to call them back to their mission in the Jewish community. They had been called by God to lead the people, but instead they tried to dominate them.

The word rabbi means teacher. Jesus came as a teacher, a rabbi, from Nazareth in the north. The leaders would not accept Him—but the people did. And that’s where the Lord got in trouble. They saw Him as threatening their authority.

Authority is a powerful and a dangerous thing. Some people get a taste of it and never want to let go. We see that in politics and even in the Church. We need to remember the last lines of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “the greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.”

Father Michael Hopkins, C.Ss.R.
Long Branch, N.J.

Scripture readings for today: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Psalm 50; Matthew 23:1-12