Gospel Thoughts 22 January 2012

January 21, 2012 at 14:23 1 comment

In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 1:14-20) Jesus says, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. As I am finalizing thoughts for weekend homilies, it dawns on me that there are a few things about this I don’t understand.

  • If a given religious group or organization believes it is following Jesus and being fishers of men, how does that explain a bishop threatening his priests with loss of faculties and livelihood if they disagree publicly with what he is doing in his attempts for impose on the general public the “catholic view” about marriage equality? How is that following Jesus and being fishers of men?
  • Do fishermen force fish to bite their hook or jump into their net? Do they not try to make their bait appealing and desirable to the fish? The Gospel is appealing when lived by folks in their everyday life, not when dictated by leaders in funny costumes.
  • Is the conduct of the hierarchy in general and many bishops in particular appealing enough to folks so they might want to know more? Since this type of “shepherding” seems to be driving many catholics to look for Jesus in other places, how can it be seen as attractive to folks who are not already catholic? Who would want to join an organization where there is a good chance that they will be bullied, threatened, browbeaten, and in general treated with an appalling lack of respect?
  • What about secrecy and taking liberties with the truth – do they reflect the way Jesus lived his Father’s love among the folks of his day?
  • Does it seem that some religious groups or organizations see themselves as the only way to Jesus rather than signs and symbols pointing to Jesus involved with our lives and filling us with our Father’s love? They seem to say that the only way folks can get to Jesus is to use their words, their ideas, their ways of worship, and deviations from these will not be tolerated.
  • In some religious groups or organizations the predominant characteristic seems to be fear – fear of being disobedient, disloyal.
  • In some religious traditions there seems to be the notion that folks no longer are allowed to think. Their leaders will do all the thinking for them. By virtue of their positions as leaders they know all there is to know about everything and they will tell their folks whatever the leaders think the folks need to know. Independent thought, using one’s God-given intellect, is not tolerated, nor is questioning.
  • For some religious groups or organizations a stated value is that the ultimate norm of morality is the individual’s conscience properly formed. The operational value is the leaders will tell the folks exactly how properly to form their conscience. Deviations from the established position are not tolerated. The leaders always know best.
  • A stated value is that the gospel is proposed and never imposed. However operationally this does not seem to apply in some situations where leaders attempt to force a particular group’s or organization’s view on the general populace through the enactment of civil laws. If civil authorities do not follow what these demands, the organization complains that their rights are being violated.
  • Then there is the situation with the current new translation of the Missal. Leadership showed apparent insensitivity by ignoring the many requests for dialogue during the process. The fact that so many such requests were made was also ignored. The weak explanations and justification for the process and its result are perceived as an insult to anyone of average intelligence.
  • Daily headlines seem to demonstrate that religious hierarchy is becoming more and more detached from the realities of everyday life for the folks they purport to lead. They are increasingly seen as irrelevant, embarrassing, out of touch, less than honest and truthful, totally disrespective of the intelligence and dedication of “their” folks.
  • It is difficult to be a priest these days. The internal stress coming from within the organization is much more difficult than the external stress that comes from trying to witness to the Gospel among the folks. So often priests do not believe in the integrity, value, or truthfulness of what they are told to do from on high. They love their folks and do not want to see them abused. But they hesitate to speak their mind because of culture, training, and the fear that they can be removed from their assignment very easily, as has happened more than a few times, and thus lose their livelihood. It is easy to point fingers at them, as folks who have no idea of what is involved often do. Priests need real and solid support and understanding from their folks.
  • I believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in all this. The involvement of so many good and qualified folks in many attempts to renew the church is a sign of the Spirit’s involvement. This is an opportunity for growth, for following the Gospel to a whole new depth and richness. The responsibility for each of us is a serious prayer life and the willingness to be surprised.

Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, New Missal, Priest.

Gospel Thoughts, 8 January 2012, Epiphany 25 January 2012, Thoughts

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jim Dubik  |  January 21, 2012 at 15:59


    Your thoughts really resonate with me, and they reflect so many conversations that I’ve had with many other Catholics.

    We love the Church–as in the body of believers. And we love all that the institutional church has done for us and continues to do for others. We know what is now missing for a generation of Catholics. We are dismayed at the spotty leadership we see in too many parishes and dioceses. We are also often dismayed at homilies poorly thought through and poorly delivered.

    In our conversations, we acknowledge the many outstanding priests we’ve met over the years and wonder why such men seem to be fewer. Whether they are or not, we can’t really tell, but that’s our sense.

    Many of us are professionals, many are relatively educated, yet we often feel like from our church leadership’s perspective, we are “sheep” to be led. Such “leadership” wouldn’t pass muster in any organization that any of us have led, yet it seems to be the norm.

    Even as I write this, I can envision some absolutely wonderful pastors and bishops. I wonder, however, why their passion and excellence and love has such a hard time shining through the church at large. No one puts a basket over a lamp, yet for reasons mysterious to me, that seems to be what our church is doing.

    I pray that those religious and lay leaders trying to do their part to lift the basket off succeed. The Holy Spirit is at work, and the dark night precedes the light. My faith tells me this; I know it is true.


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