Have you ever been challenged by someone for calling a priest “father”? I used to wonder myself why it is we do that when our Gospel today gives us the following instruction…
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
As I grew older, I also began to wonder why it was no one questioned my wife being called a “teacher”?
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
If I turn on a TV, I have no problem finding people being referred to as a “master” – “master” chef, “master” carpenter – Seinfeld had an episode called “Master of my domain”. Clearly this can’t be right…
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
So why do I as a Roman Catholic have no qualms in referring to our priests as “father”. Because my faith and understanding of the Gospel tells me that Jesus was explaining the one true source of all “fathers” is God. The one true source of “teachers” is God. The one true source of “masters” is God. If you’re not following my argument, let me try explaining it this way.
When my sister-in-law Ann professed her final vows to truly become my Sister, I wrote her a song defining her mission – or I should say what all of our missions in Christ – should be. Here is the refrain…
May you be the window so all see Christ, may grace and mercy flow from your heart. May the road less traveled become your path and may God bless you and keep you from harm.
So if I as a “father”, my wife as a “teacher” and “mother”, my sister Ann as a “sister”, our priests as “fathers” truly want to carry and keep that title, the source and summit of all we do should not be about us – it has to be about God. If I’m truly being the man – the father – I’m called to be for my children, I am simply a “window” that when they look at me they see through me and see God. As long as the source of my fatherhood is based in God and His truth, then yes, I can be called “father”. As long as a priest’s source of fatherhood is based in God and His truth – as long as they are the windows through which we see Christ, then yes, they too can be called priests.
Jesus warns us in today’s Gospel, those who use the title of father, teacher, master as though THEY are the source and summit of that truth — AND NOT GOD — those are ones you should never call father, teacher, master.
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.’
Do something great for our Lord today – wash your “window” so all may see Christ through you.
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.