Isaiah 1:10, 16–20; Psalm 50:8–9, 16bc–17, 21, 23; Matthew 23:1–12
Priests get asked occasionally—usually by folks of a fundamentalist Christian bent—about today’s Gospel text, in which Jesus tells us we should not use the title father for anyone on earth—only for our Father in heaven. Leaving aside the question of what they might call their own dads, they are missing the point of Jesus’ words, which come at the end of the passage: “The greatest among you must be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11–12).
We are not to use titles but rather serve in humility. A saint who embodied that ideal bore the religious name Thérèse of the Child Jesus; tradition has given her a title befitting her humility, “the Little Flower.” She became a Carmelite nun in Lisieux, France, in 1888 at age fifteen, and died just nine years later. Her life in the convent was spent in prayer and arduous manual work that taxed her already frail frame, weakened by childhood illness.
Though she did not seek fame, Thérèse’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, has become a spiritual classic, and her influence as a teacher of holiness led to her being named a doctor of the church in 1997.
The Little Flower is a good patron for our lenten walk with Jesus. His words about humble service are meant for all who would become his followers.
Reflect on what humility means in your life.
Jesus, teach us humility.
May our lenten self-denial move us to serve others
in imitation of the Little Flower.