Gospel Thoughts 13 May 2012, Part 2

May 12, 2012 at 10:16 Leave a comment


In today’s Gospel Story (John 15:9-17) Jesus says, “This I command you: love one another”. This is his Message, our sharing in the Kingdom of God that is among us. Something has changed. The call to live the Message has been replaced by a call to be loyal to an institution which says it alone can proclaim the Message. The institution has become the Message, and the Message has become distorted, a tool for the institution to perpetuate itself and for its “leaders to maintain their power. Loyalty to the Message has been replaced by loyalty to the bishops. The church of the Message has been replaced by the church of the bishops who see themselves uniquely qualified to pass judgment on just about everything. It will be interesting to see how the bishops portray their investigation of the Girl Scouts as proclaiming Jesus’ Message of love.

Jesus taught love, but love cannot force people to do things, so the institution replaced it with fear – fear of punishment, fear of being expelled, fear of offending a god whom ”leadership” portrays as their ultimate enforcer since only they can interpret his will, which, coincidentally, often coincides with their will. In other words, keep the folks in line by any means necessary — not much different from the institution Jesus criticized in his day.

Jesus offered his message to anyone he met. He did not force it on anyone, and left it up to each person to accept it or reject it. He simply offered folks his Father’s love, and left the rest up to them. The religious institution of his day did not like that. It was a threat to their power, perhaps like his message today still is a threat to the institution’s power. Protecting the institution and its powers trumps everything. The supreme value is loyalty to the institution. God the Enforcer will punish any deviations, and, since the institution acts in his name, it can inflict whatever punishment it chooses as it claims to live and teach the Message — violence and abuse by any standard.

Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete”, but there doesn’t seem to be much joy among judged women religious, silenced priests, folks excluded from full Eucharist because of sexual orientation or marriage status, or, as we have heard recently, the Girl Scouts. There are many similarities between the folks in the pews, or who used to be in the pews, and victims of spouse abuse. “Leadership” commits violence on folks who do not toe the line. There is no other word for it. “Leadership” is abusive and violent. Where is the Message? It is possible to love the Church and the Message while realizing that the institutional structure is getting in the way of the Message. For some, even questioning the institutional structure is a sin. Some folks have bought completely in to the institution and judge severely any who do not share their absolute enthusiasm. The judgment they proclaim on any who do not share their view often is severe.

It is increasingly clear that the Holy Spirit is still guiding the church powerfully, as is shown by the number of folks who are rising up calling for change. It is thrilling to be a part of the church these days, although it is also dangerous. The institution goes to great lengths to protect itself, and attacks vigorously any who would question it, as is clear in the way it treats the priests in Ireland who question the institution while loving the Gospel. Folks involved in asking for change need a strong prayer life and a sense of being grounded in the Spirit. They are really taking up their cross daily and following Jesus, and being treated as he was.

The Story talks about remaining in Jesus’ love. The institution does not offer too many examples of how to do that. We would have to look in what “leadership” sees as all the wrong places: to folks trying to get through life as best they can, making decisions with each other and God about their families and intimacy; to folks who for any reason are discriminated against and cut off from full participation in the rich life of the Church, which itself is less enriched because of the folks “leadership” has cut off; to women who have devoted their lives to living the Gospel; to the Girl Scouts who teach girls to be strong, confident, self-respecting, independent; to so many folks who have been hurt by “leadership” at all levels; to many who have seen enough abuse and pain and just walked away. The Message is happening very powerfully as folks reach out to help and support each other with or without, and even in spite of, the institution.

As Jesus tells us, we are where we need to be, and we know what we have to do: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you; this I command you: love one another.”

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Disobedient priests, Forbidden topics, Gospel thoughts, Priest, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Gospel Thoughts 13 May 2012 Gospel Thoughts 20 May 2012, Ascension

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