After tolerating, but crushing, the repeated attacks by the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes, in Matthew 23, Christ publicly (in the Temple!) warns that they are dangerous should not be followed. He begins by reasserting the importance of authority, pointing to the chair of Moses as the current authoritative teaching; in the New Covenant, Christ, the Son of God and Divine King is the exclusive authority and establishes the Chair of Peter (the papacy) and His Catholic Church to rule for Him.

Christ denounces the Jewish religious leadership with several criticisms: they put excessive religious burdens on the faithful; they don’t practice what they preach; they practice conspicuous piety; they pridefully seek attention and honor. Christ tells His disciples to avoid the Jewish leadership’s core sin of pride and embrace humility: “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.”

Of note: Protestants (and some feminists) often foolishly and falsely use Christ’s “call no man father” to argue against Christ’s exclusive selection of men for the Catholic priesthood and addressing priests as “father.” Christ uses hyperbole (e.g. exaggeration) to denounce the hypocritical Pharisee’s prideful quest for honorific titles; Christ certainly doesn’t intend for children not to call their own biological father, “father” (or to not call a religious teacher, “rabbi” ). The Apostles understood Christ’s “call no man father” as hyperbole; they used “father” as a title for spiritual fatherhood (Peter, John, Paul all did this) and eventually the title “father” became routinely used for priests.

1) Be awed by Christ’s bold and courageous speaking the truth about the blatant sins and corruption of those in power.

2) Just as Christ condemned the sinful failures of the Jewish leadership but urged His disciples to remain faithful, Christ abhors the many failures of Catholic clergy but desires Catholic men to remain faithful. During Lent, renew your understanding of Holy Orders (CCC 1536-1600) and pray for Christ to protect and correct His priests.

3) Christ condemns the arrogant pride of the Jewish leadership. During Lent, reignite your commitment to pursue Humility (CCC 2546, 2559, 2631) and pray for Christ to help you to grow in humble faith and love.