Well, I think “respect” depends on your intentions. There is of course, respect given in the sense of seeking honour and power and authority. And there’s respect that everyone, including those in authority must give us as a child of God. Jesus left us a powerful message in the way he lived and the way he taught. That message is this: true authority from God is demonstrated through service.
Today, perhaps the permanent deacons are the best “icons” of that message. They are called to serve in the name of the Church, in the name of Christ. However, their service is always intended to be a humble service. The rank and privileges of the deacon are submersed in the very service that they joyfully offer to the people of God.
As noted in the First Reading (Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10), in the time of the Prophet Malachi (the last prophet of the Old Testament era) and also in the time of Jesus, many of the leaders who were supposed to shepherd the people had abused their authority and laid burdens on the shoulders of the people in the form of regulations originally intended for themselves only. In addition, with a vain pride they displayed their honours and position by enlarging the showily religious symbols they wore.
Jesus sternly and firmly warned his disciples—that means you and me—not to engage in those practices of vanity (Matthew 23:1-12). Instead he held up only one standard to follow: the standard of service, which is to be carried out quietly and with total humility. It would be well if every one of us who engages in even the smallest leadership capacity—committee member or chairperson, political office, employee in a service industry, and countless other examples—if we would recall this important teaching from Jesus about humility and service. The mission of every Christian must be carried out in this fashion.
We are called to live humbly. Our model is Jesus, who humbled himself to share our humanity. Indeed, humility is the very foundation of prayer!