Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Today’s gospel reading and Jesus’ admonition about grasping at honors reminds me of the contentious battles that occurred in 17th century Rome over the issues relating to honor. It would seem that even in the headquarters of the Church, that concern about honor became particularly sensitive. When carriages met at an intersection debates would arise as to who, because of rank, would give right of way to someone else. These carriages actually bore insignia by which others could determine rank and place. Napoleon attempted to eradicate this inequality (though not totally, he made himself emperor) by setting up traffic regulations in which right of way and road travel was determined by pre-arranged rules such as driving on the right side of the road and persons to your right had precedence. This rule was established in Napoleonic countries and reversed in England, the sworn enemy of Napoleonic France.
We do not need to turn to Napoleon for advice on how to deal with the issue of honor. Instead, we need to realize that honor is given to God and respect to God’s creation The most important aspect of creation is that which bears the divine likeness, the human person. We certainly owe respect and courtesy to those who, because of their experience, roles in society, or achievements deserve recognition. We can confuse to whom we give honor and identify an action of a human person beyond that of God. In that case, we fail to recognize that God is the Creator of all and we deny the fundamental reality of God’s work in the world. By doing so, we instead give greater honor and respect to something much less.