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Gospel interpretation

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Sunday, Nov 5, 2017 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 1st Reading: Malachi 1:14—2:2,8-10 2nd
Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2:7-9,13 Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

“The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sat on the seat of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them. They do everything in order to be seen by people; so they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first place at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and being greeted in the marketplace and being called ‘Master’ by the people.

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, he who is in heaven. Nor should you be called leader, because Christ is the only leader for you…”

D@iGITAL-EXPERIENCE
(Daily Gospel in the
Assimilated Life
Experience)

An email sender began his letter to me with “Dear Dan”. He deliberately omitted the title “Father” to dramatize his point that people should not call anyone on earth “Father” as the Bible says. In my reply I pointed out to him that his literal interpretation of the Bible, specifically, today’s Gospel reading, leads to absurdities. Under his narrow interpretation, for example, children could no longer call their male biological parent “Father”. Yet we know that the Gospel will never command us to do something absurd. What Today’s Gospel intends to clip is the pride of the Pharisees who loved to receive public accolade at all times.

I wouldn’t mind if people simply call me by name. I wouldn’t be less of a priest without the controversial title. The God we call Father won’t be less of a father also if we use the same title on human beings. God would even be pleased if children call their male parent “Father” out of respect.
Interpreting the Bible literally sets aside respect for its context and squanders the intended meaning. Taking literally today’s Gospel prohibition to call anyone on earth “Father” leads to a practice contrary to our good custom of showing respect to elders. This becomes more glaring if we consider other Gospel passages like the Gospel advice to cut off our eyes and limbs if these lead us to sin.

After a few more exchanges of emails, that email sender eventually wrote: “Dear Father Dan”. Nothing was added to my priesthood, and God did not become less of a Father. –(Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., D.M. Email: dan.delosangeles@gmail.com.

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