How do we knowingly or unknowingly create obstacles to grace in other people's lives? When we decide to be rigid not for the sake of God and His statutes but for our own benefit. Instead of being able to serve God and His people by drawing them closer to the Lord, we effectively drive them away from the Lord. We make it impossible for others to be fruitful for the Lord not only because we have barred them from truly serving the Lord but we impose a lot of pre-requisites for one to be able to do something for God and His family. It can also be during those times when we consciously try to control the people around us, often causing them to be cut-off from spontaneous moments of grace. Let us reflect on Matthew 23:1-12.

In Jesus' day and even today, the vested interests of some so called spiritual leaders may have been taken to foolish extremes causing disunity and confusion within the ranks of God's church. Ceasing to think about God's whole family and focusing solely upon oneself has a lot of destructive consequences. God's family is not only injured but it can also erase whatever faith a believer has.

Narcissus was the character in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and unable to pull himself away died of thirst. Sigmund Freud coined the term narcissism to describe a set of character traits marked by a grandiose sense of self-importance and self-admiration. Some of the criteria for diagnosing this disorder, such as arrogance, lack of empathy and a need for excessive admiration, may well be found in the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees. I do not intend to play psychologist and diagnose narcissistic personality disorder in Jesus' adversaries, but I do believe that unless we are introspective, unless we examine our consciences, unless we take a healthy and objective look at ourselves we are all capable of self-righteousness and hardness of heart.

Jesus challenged the mentality of the religious leaders of his day, accusing them of hypocrisy and insensitivity. They were concerned about the externals of their religion: their titles, their power, and their teachings. They neglected the service their relationship with God was meant to give. We may have no equivalent for the Scribes and Pharisees today, yet such attitudes are not yet an endangered species as they are still very much present within God's church.

Today as we pray to God, let us ask ourselves what exactly we can do to start changing and be liberators rather than be burden givers within God's flock. It has been said that "The longest journey is the journey inward" The entire church, laity and clergy alike, are called to introspection during this Lenten season. Otherwise we, too, will be guilty of tying up heavy burdens, of performing works to be seen, of failing to practice what we preach.

Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes