Saturday, August 25, 2018
Today, in Mercy, as the Catholic Church continues to struggle with the reality of institutional corruption, our Gospel reminds us of the solution Christ gave us as the Church was born.
As Jesus instructed his disciples somewhere near Jerusalem, the Pharisees and Scribes edged along the crowd, seeking reasons to attack him. They saw Jesus as the evil that would destroy their religion. They were unable to see the evil within themselves eating away the substance of their faith.
Jesus says the signs of that corrosion are evident: empty preaching, contradictory lifestyles, doctrinal oppression, the failure to serve with compassion. He condemns the pharisaical pretense at leadership which cloaks an avarice for singularity and entitlement. He denounces the hierarchies which faithlessness builds to protect its selfish interests.
Scripture scholars believe that the writer of Matthew emphasizes this strongly cautionary passage because he sees the same sins emerging in the early Church. Less than a century after the Resurrection, institutional decay already plagues the Christian community.
Is it, indeed, impossible to form a human community without these imperfections eventually fracturing it? Jesus says no, it is not impossible. But the way is incontrovertible:
“As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher,
and you are all brothers and sisters.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Removing centuries of accretions from our Church, deconstructing embedded hierarchies, and returning to the humble model of Christ are the daunting tasks before us. Where can we possibly begin?
It is at the only place we can ever begin — ourselves.
What allegiance and investments do I have in the elements that have crippled our Church? Is my “membership” simply a cosmetic on my otherwise uncommitted life, or am I willing to share real responsibility for reforming and enlivening the community of faith? Let’s pray these questions together as a faith community desiring healing.
Music: Philippians Canticle ~ John Michael Talbot