“As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ . . . . Call no one on earth your father … Do not be called ‘Master’ . . . .” (Mt 23:8-10)
At first glance, it seems that following Jesus involves abandoning all formal names and official titles—teacher, father, master—as if the Church should be some sort of folksy commune. And there are at least some Christians who look upon the Catholic custom of calling priests “father” as sure proof of their ignorance of Scripture. However, not even the first generation of Christians took Jesus to be condemning all names of social standing. After all, the Evangelists don’t scruple to call Joseph and Mary the “father and mother” of Jesus (e.g., Lk 2:33). St. Paul even calls himself the “father” of the Church in Corinth, reminding them, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1Cor 4:15).
But if Jesus isn’t simply condemning the words “teacher,” “father,” and “master,” what is he up to? There’s a similar episode from the life of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius that may give us a clue. Read the rest of this entry »