The mother of a young man expelled from university for having maligned and destroyed the name of his teachers turned to the young man and said: Didn’t I tell you to stop imitating Vice Ganda (a comedian known for his sarcasm and disrespect for others)? Now, this is where idolizing him led you!

Another young person who was being reprimanded by his elders for cursing another young person on social media reasoned out: If the president of the Philippines can curse, then why can’t I do the same?

The gospel today derives from the part of Matthew’s writing against the Pharisees. The entire chapter is so hostile, our selection today (Mt 23:1-12) only gives the first part. It is clear in the Lord’s words that he maintains a respect for the office of the scribes and Pharisees, recognized as vital institutions in Israel. But the Lord cautions his listeners against following the examples of these religious leaders. Their teachings are sound and based on the tradition of Israel and of Judaism, but their actions do not support their words.

It is important for us to realize that those in position to lead and guide are both powerful and influential. They are powerful because they can directly dictate how others should act. They are influential because they subtly affect the mentality and attitudes of the people they govern. The Lord Jesus saw only insincerity and pretentiousness in his adversaries’ characters. Remember that prior to this chapter, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with tricky questions in order to pin him down once he makes a mistake. The Pharisees and scribes wanted to destroy Jesus and to do this, they tried to influence people to espouse their own hatred and animosity.

Jesus invites us to imitate not human personalities, however attractive and interesting they may be. Instead, we must focus our attention only on One Teacher, One Master, One Father. But in this age of social conditioning, do we not have idols after whom we pattern our words and action? Who are the people we believe we should listen to, admire and follow? Are they worth our adulation and imitation?

As Christians we need to follow only the words and example of God that comes to us in the life and teachings of his Son Jesus the Christ.