Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B Nov 11, 2018

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time   Cycle B    Nov 11, 2018

          In the Gospel we just heard Jesus said to the crowds (and that includes you and me), “Beware of the scribes, …”    Beware of the scribes!   Just last Sunday in the Gospel Jesus praised the scribe who had asked Him about the most important commandment and then showed understanding when the scribe stated:  Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.'
And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding,
with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself'
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."  
Good answer!
          So, we can see that some scribes were really good.  But Jesus warns us against a certain type of scribe, those scribes who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.”
          Why does Jesus warn us against them?  Because,They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.“     Watch out for those lengthy prayers!
          Well, you may think, this is of some historical interest, but when is the last time you saw an actual scribe?  Especially one in a long robe mouthing lengthy prayers?  Could you even find a scribe today?  Probably not.  So are we then exempt from this solemn warning of The Lord?  Do we not have to pay any attention to this warning?  Do we not have to spend any energy and effort in truly being beware???
          I am afraid not.  Because the same sort of evil dynamic that operated in the Judaism of Jesus’ day, happens also in our own.  In fact, many scripture scholars believe that Mark includes this in his Gospel because it was also a problem in the early church.  And it is still a problem today.  Only instead of calling it the problem of the scribes, we call it clericalism.  Anybody here ever hear of clericalism?
          Beware of those priests and bishops and nuns and deacons who like to go around in long robes, in distinctive clerical or religious dress, or lots of lace and watered silk.  The kind of priest whose identity is invested in his roman collar.  Who like being called “Father”, “your Grace”, “Sister”, “Reverend”, “and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in the churches, and places of honor at banquets.”    Beware!
          Clericalism is a real problem and a great danger in the church.  It is not I who say it, but Pope Francis, who stated this clearly in a letter to the faithful, that is, to all of us, on this past August 20. 
          In that letter to us, Pope Francis wrote: “It is impossible to think of … our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God (that is you) to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.  Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.” 
 You can find the full letter on the Vatican web site.
          Some have tried to blame the horrible scourge of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the church on the seminaries and poor education and preparation of the clergy.  Some, with a different agenda, have tried to put the blame on homosexuals in the church, which all the studies and experts have debunked.
          The Pope, and I believe he is following the Lord in today’s Gospel, places the root cause of this terrible tragedy on clericalism. 
          Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of theology at Manhattan College. stated: “There is no doubt that clericalism is at the root of the abuse crisis. Clericalism is isolating and insular - it cuts off the ‘oxygen’ of genuine solidarity and sharing-of-life with laypeople by creating a separate class, even a separate caste, within the Church.”
“There are ways in which clericalism hurts everyone,” she said: “The laity is victimized and infantilized; the clergy are isolated and expected to be superhuman.”
          So the warning that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel is very real and still very timely.  Beware of the scribes, those who promote a culture of clericalism, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.”
          Having been warned by The Lord and by the Pope, what should we do? 
We all need first of all to recognize that our primary identity, who we most truly are, is children of God.  Not laity.  Not clergy.  Not even Catholics, but children of God.  We are loved by God.  That is what ultimately, and permanently, gives us our worth. 
          Each of us, correspondingly, is responsible to God.  We cannot delegate nor transfer to another our responsibility to be God’s holy people.  We must each interiorize that identity and make it our own.
          We must not put the professional religious types, like bishops and priests and deacons and nuns, on some sort of psychological pedestal in order to escape the obligation everyone of us has to seek true holiness.  We cannot delegate holiness to the priest, make him some kind of different kind of being so that we do not have to figure out the messy business of being holy.  In the Gospel today it is not the professional religious person, the scribe, but rather the poor widow, who is praised by Jesus for genuine holiness. 
          Looking at people this way, through the eyes of the Lord, is revolutionary.  It is different than the way of the world.  We are not to be fooled by long robes and fancy titles and unusual clothing, and most certainly not by the recitation of lengthy prayers.   AMEN? 
          Rather we are to seek genuine faith and generosity and love, as the Lord does.  And it is these things that really matter in the Kingdom of God. 

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