- Peter Walle, '11
As I have reflected during this Lenten Season, I have often turned inwards to ask an important question: how often do I actually embody God's laws, rather than simply appearing to do so? In today's Gospel, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes as those who “preach but do not practice”. He subsequently calls His followers not only to do all that the Pharisees demand of them, but also to strive to live as far apart from their corrupt way of life as possible. In short – do what they say, not what they do.
How many of us are modern Pharisees? It is common to see someone take credit for the good things she has done, thus making them appear to be holy, upstanding citizens. What we rarely see, unsurprisingly, is people taking credit for their mistakes. God's call to humbleness is replaced with the human law of “individual purpose”. That is, our human actions have the tendency to conceal oh-so-conveniently placed ulterior motives aimed exclusively at individual gain. Personally, I find it easy to fall victim to this temptation. Being wrapped up in many leadership roles, service projects, and other responsibilities, I lose my sense of humbleness and instead fall into a cycle of self-centered work. But who doesn't? In high school, many students simply complete extracurriculars to get into a good college. In the workplace, although I have not experienced it, I would assume the naturally recurring cycle continues. Never mind doing a good deed simply for the sake of being a good person. Individual gain is paramount. I don’t mean to say that all people are just out for themselves. Rather, the problem is that we attempt to play god. We try to do everything – help others, gain glory, cure cancer, ride the occasional grizzly bear, and even enter the Matrix – and take credit for everything…without ever admitting our shortcoming. Eventually, something has to give.
Today’s Scripture passage calls us to look outwards, realizing that the self-seeking aspect of our lives is the one we must try to reject. Jesus speaks of the concrete consequences to falling into the role of the self-seeker. When infected with selfish desire, instead of one’s good deeds being for the “Greater Glory of God”, they tend to fall “on people’s shoulders”, creating unnecessary hurt and pain. In our quest to accomplish everything, we actually hinder true humanitarian progress.
Thus, in a time where we are constantly reminded of human potential, it is important to also be reminded of human weakness. It is important to address our own faults and negative tendencies in an effort to prevent hurt not just to our own faith lives, but concrete pain in the lives of others. Personally, by looking to God for the strength to remain humble, I hope to come to a greater understanding of what it means to be a true “Man for Others”.