Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Jesus offers a strong critique of the scribes and the Pharisees in today’s gospel, but he also makes the surprising admonition that his hearers “do and observe all things whatsoever [the scribes and the Pharisees] tell you,” since they hold a legitimate teaching authority through the chair of Moses. Jesus distinguishes between the legitimate teaching authority conferred upon the religious leaders by virtue of their office and the bad example these same office-holders give by not practicing what they preach and by performing works so that they may be seen and esteemed by others.
In the Church today, we should continue to bear in mind this distinction. Of course, God desires holy pastors, as do we. Nonetheless, even if we should find ourselves in a situation where those entrusted with legitimate authority by the Church do not lead lives that befit their office, we can trust that God will, nonetheless, make use of their office to guide the Church. It was this trust in God’s grace working through the office that led Ignatius of Loyola to place himself and his companions at the service of a Pope whose personal conduct may not have been entirely in keeping with the dignity of his office, whereas those whom we now know as the Protestant reformers of the same period chose to reject not only the person of the pope, but his office as well.
God entrusts important offices to broken people all the time, and he offers them the grace to fulfill that office. At a much more basic level, we see how God trusts broken parents to offer good things to the most helpless of God’s creatures: their children. God commands us to honor our father and our mother, even though they may not always be worthy of such honor if judged on the basis of their merits. In our exercise of an office entrusted to us by God, we should not imagine that we take the place of God, but rather should always keep in mind that we represent God and that we need to do so in a way that would be pleasing to him (on this, see http://www.magisspirituality.org/ignatian_reflection/15-08-22/). If we humbly strive to be open to the grace that God offers, then—in spite of our failings—we can trust that God actually does make use of us to accomplish his will, since God also works through the legitimate authority of those to whom he entrusts with an office in the Church.
February 23rd, 2016