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  • Father David M. Knight

April 3, 2017

MONDAY, Lent week five

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The Responsorial (Psalm 23) declares all fears false except separation from God: “Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”

Daniel 13: 1-62 is a painful story to read today, and it raises painful issues. The villains are “elders,” which in Greek is presbyteros, the word which became “priest” in English. In the context of our world, the men who tried to rape Susanna were priests. Worse than that, they were “judges,” which makes them closer to bishops. Although Suzanna was a married woman, we cannot read this without feeling

the shadow of the disgrace that Catholic priests and bishops brought upon the Church through commission, collusion or cover-up in the recently unveiled horror of child-abuse.

The relevance and practical value of the story for us lies in the reason why Susanna was found guilty. With her unblemished reputation, the people might not have accepted the testimony of two ordinary men, But her accusers had the credibility that two bishops or cardinals would have in a Church hearing today. Any lawyer will tell you that, although justice is supposed to be blind, justice through a jury can be swayed by the prestige of the witnesses.

The child-abuse horror is a story of clericalism, defined as the unmerited assumption that priests and bishops are somehow more sacred and more holy than ordinary people. Priests could prey on children because the children were in awe of them as representatives of God. Parents reported abusers to the bishop because they thought priests too sacred to be handed over to the police. And they trusted — mistakenly — that the bishop would handle the matter on a higher, holier level than the government. No one knows what the bishops thought, because before the Irish exposure none was ever made accountable, even by the Pope. Like the judges who accused Susanna, they were initially assumed to be beyond reproach. Hopefully, we will never make that mistake again.

We have learned a bitter lesson. In God’s human-divine Church, no rank, position, function, even sacramentally bestowed, makes anyone holier or more to be trusted a-priori than anyone else. Our theology tells us the sacraments produce their result independently of the holiness of the minister. That also should tell us the holiness of the minister is not to be presumed. What Jesus said of true and false prophets is also true of good and bad clerics: “You will know them by their fruits.”[1]

In John 8: 1-11 Jesus shows us that it is also wrong to presume anyone is “bad,” even a sinner “caught in the act” of adultery. Jesus said to the woman, “I do not condemn you.” But he did condemn the action: “From now on, avoid this sin.” No matter what we do, Jesus will not forsake us: “Though I walk in the valley of darkness... you are at my side.”

Initiative: Put aside prejudice, whether for or against any person. Speak truth.

[1] Matthew 7:15-20.

#clericalism #Childabusescandal

  • Father David M. Knight

April 2, 2017

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (Year A)

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Inventory

The Entrance Antiphon is a prayer of trust: “Give me justice, O God… Rescue me from the deceitful and the unjust” (Psalm 43). Do I see this happening? Judging by what I see going on in the world, does it seem that Jesus is winning or losing? Christians believe Jesus triumphed over those who crucified him by rising from the dead. Do I see any visible evidence of his resurrection around me today that encourages me to believe in his victory? Am I looking the right way?

Input

In the Opening Prayer we ask to be like God: “Father, help us to be like Christ your Son.” We are the risen body of Jesus on earth. It is in and through us that he is winning the battle against evil today. What do I need to do in order to let him act and win through me?

Resurrection is us:

Ezekiel 37: 12-14 does not mention what God will do to his enemies or ours. Ezekiel only speaks of what God will do for us: “I will open your graves and have you rise from them…. I will put my spirit in you that you may live.” This was the way Jesus triumphed after his crucifixion: he did not obliterate his enemies; he just rose from the dead.

We know Jesus is triumphing in us, not from what we see happening in the world around us, but from what we see happening within ourselves. “I will put my spirit in you that you may live…. Thus you shall know that I am the Lord.” We know Jesus is Lord when we experience the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace (see Galatians 5:22).

The Responsorial (Psalm 130) puts our focus on God as giving life, not taking revenge: “For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem” (or “fullness of redemption”). God shows his power in saving, in converting, in redeeming, not in condemning and destroying.

This is a lesson the first disciples of Jesus found hard to learn, and we do too. When a Samaritan town would not give Jesus lodging for the night, “his disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’” Jesus told them they were wrong and just “went on to another village” (Luke 9: 52-57). Jesus came, not to destroy but to save. If we want to reveal ourselves as his risen body on earth, we need to cultivate within ourselves, as his disciples, the same attitude Jesus had. Faced with injustice or hostility, our immediate response should not be, “How can I fight back?” It should be life-giving: “How can I help, how can I heal this person?”

Life “in the Spirit”

Romans 8: 8-11 makes clear that there is a radical difference between thinking and living in the way that seems most natural to us — the way people in our society seem to think, the way we grew up thinking, the way our culture conditions us to think and react — and the way Jesus thinks and acts. St. Paul calls the first way “living in the flesh,” following what our physical contact with others in human society has programmed us to think and do. He calls the second way “living in the Spirit,” following what our experience of the Spirit in our hearts impels us to do. Paul says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” They might do a lot of good things, but they can’t integrally live and impact the world in the way Jesus needs them to do if they are going to be most effective in helping him establish the reign of God on earth. “But you are not in the flesh,” Paul says to those who are living the life of grace and listening to Jesus as disciples. “You are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

This is the way we experience Jesus’ triumph and Jesus’ life in us: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” This is not just physical life: we will find that we “come alive” in faith, hope and love and can do Christ’s work in the world as his living body, enlightened and strengthened by his Spirit. Then we ourselves will be the visible proof of Jesus resurrection, because we will be living manifestly by his Spirit as his risen body on earth.

“Lazarus, come out!”

But we have to hear his voice. And we can. John 11: 1-45 tells us that Lazarus was four days in the tomb; nevertheless, in response to the voice of Jesus he “came out,” though his hands and feet were “bound with strips of cloth.” If we let the words of Jesus call us forth, we too will “come out” of whatever binds us and keeps us in darkness or in the death of inertia. We will experience Christ’s triumph and his “great power to redeem” through the divine life he shares with us and the action of his Spirit within us.

But for this to happen we have to hear his words. We need to become disciples, learners, and listen to Jesus. We need to reflect on his words and let them call us to life. His words open us to the Spirit, and the Spirit gives us life. “For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” We have to believe this enough to dedicate ourselves to learning from him as committed students of his mind and heart.

Insight: Do I live more by the “Spirit” or by the “flesh”? When have I experienced the light and power of the Spirit in me?

Initiative: Read Scripture every day — even if only for five minutes — and let it challenge the attitudes and assumptions you grew up with.


  • Father David M. Knight

To be authentic disciples of Jesus, we have to convert to following a new guidance system: the divine light of God within us instead of the natural light of human reason alone. This means living lives that are not just human but divine.

Invitation:

Jesus offers to “speak peace to a sinful world,” and to “teach us,” so that “our faith, hope and love may turn hatred into love, conflict into peace, death into eternal life” and “bring to the human race the gift of reconciliation.” If we love what Jesus offers us in the Church and believe in it, we will seek it as disciples,

as students eager to learn and be nourished by God’s words.

Ask yourself in prayer and others in discussion, for each statement below: “Do you see this in the Scripture reading? What response does it invite?

Sunday: If we love the Church, we will seek nourishment from her and we will find it. We just have to know where to look.

To be disciples of Jesus, it is not enough to accept and do what he tells us. We have to learn how to look at things as he does.

Monday:: The Church is like a mother to us: loving, but conscientious. Mothers set the rules, keep family life ordered. It is necessary. But it isn’t the whole picture.

Tuesday: Those most persecuted t by others in the Church are the “prophets” — those who upset complacency by acting or speaking in a way that calls long-standing assumptions into question

Wednesday: Without the intimacy of personal interaction with God, we fall back on the impersonal relationship of rules, trying to “save ourselves” without his help.

The worst deception is to deny the prophetic gift out of fear of mistakes and trust in nothing but slavish obedience to laws. This is to deny the faith.

Thursday: God does not want to save the world unilaterally. He wants humans to pray for each other. Then what God does is our gift as well as his.

Friday: In today’s educated Church, every believer is challenged to ask about every Church doctrine and practice, “Where does it come from?” If we don’t, we will become a community of blind led by the blind.

Saturday: Our ultimate confidence is in the word of God and carefully discerned enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Unqualified trust in anything else, besides the reliable but rare “defined’ dogmas of the Church, is idolatry.

Decisions:

Obey the rules, but interpret them according to the Father’s heart.

Believe Scripture as divine revelation. Read it as human dialogue.

Be a responsible believer. Know the origin of what you believe and do.


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