[In] receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God. -1 Thessalonians 2:13b
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. -Matthew 23:2-3
Today’s readings lead us to examine those people we choose to take advice and teaching from. If we take a look at our lives, we usually find we’ve had many teachers over the years. Starting from an early age with our parents, continuing into elementary school, high school, and beyond, there are many people we’ve had a teacher/student relationship with.
We can also find particular friends and family, pastors (whether of our own church or in the media), spiritual directors, workshop leaders, the list goes on and on of people that have and continue to inform our understanding of our relationship with God.
But often we find our teachers, like many heroes, sometimes have feet of clay. While they may have great insight into certain particular teachings, we should be cautious about following them in everything they do and say. Jesus admonishes his followers to listen to the scribes and Pharisees because they have taken the seat of Moses; that is, they are appointed teachers of the mosaic law. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them good role models because elsewhere in the gospel Jesus tells us we need to stay awake. As Saint Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “Test all, retain what is good.”
It is tempting to become intellectually lazy and just want to go along without examining what we receive. But as both Jesus and Paul tell us, we are not to cut ourselves off from the world, but to examine it, to test it and retain what is good.
And how do I do that? Through reflection, discernment, and taking the time to sit with what I receive and listen to the spirit in my heart.
My prayer for myself today is that I’d be willing to take the time to seek the spirit in everything I receive and discern that which is true.
Talib Huff is a retired teacher and a member of the retreat team at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You can contact him at [email protected].