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Humble to be Exalted

First Reading: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50:8-9, 16BC-17, 21 AND 23

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

NAB

feb 23

I have a holy friend. A saint among us, I’m sure of it. She’s in her mid sixties. This woman is filled with humor, treatable but not curable cancer, wit, love, and when I was in law school? Always in the mail the Sunday bulletin from our shared parish back home, along with two sticks of gum. Just in case.

She fasts every week. One day. Even throughout her cancer troubles, the heartaches four grown and married & parenting children will bring a mother/grandmother, a terrible accident her husband was in (and survived due in large part, I’m absolutely sure, to her hefty banking of graces over the years), she fasts.

I don’t know this because she advertises it. I don’t know this because she moans and groans about being hungry and then dramatically refuses food when at my house. I don’t know this because she lectures me and my other family members (including those who’ve fallen away from the faith) about being Catholic and being Holy and being Righteous. Because she doesn’t. She’s the antithesis of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel.

I found out sideways once. And it made sense. How when she’s over on those days she only accepts water as a snack. How we never schedule lunches or dinners together on those days. How she nimbly slips away from conversation about her suffering, and focuses on how wonderfully I’m doing as a mother, or how my own mother is so kind and attentive as a grandmother.

None of her works are performed to be seen or garner praise. If there’s a cooler on your back porch filled with meals already made with love, she’s been there. If your child opens a package in the mail for Saint Patrick’s Day and there are three outfits in the right sizes saying “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” she’s thought of it. If you’re wrestling with something in your marriage, she’s got just the right words and prayers for you. She epitomizes humility and real charity. We are so blessed by her in our lives, and by her example.

May we be this vessel for God’s love for each other. May we reach beyond wanting credit for doing the right thing and looking so great, and turn that glory back to God. May we humble ourselves to one day, in Heaven, be exalted.

photo credit

Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.

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