Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 17:5-8 • 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20 • Lk 6:17, 20-26

The Blessing of Persecution

      In the past few years there has been a virtual persecution of Roman Catholic priests and brothers in many western countries on the matter of child abuse. Many cases of children being interfered with by clerics have come to light in the U.S. Canada and Australia. These have let to many expensive law-suits. The Irish Government actually collapsed because of a case which involved a pedophile priest. There are many aspects to this news. It is not really amazing that there would be some members of the clergy who, like the population in general, are sexually sick or perverted. It is not surprising either that the clergy like any family will try to avoid making its internal embarrassments public.

      While the abuse of trust by a priest who makes use of his position is appalling there is no easier way of destroying a good and innocent man than by accusing him of such behavior. There are organizations linked to law firms, who deliberately seek out those who remember, or imagine that they remember being abused, even decades ago.

      Of relevance to our discussion today is the fact that this whole matter of the Church's embarrassment has also a Gospel value. Some clergy, especially when dressed as clerics, have had nasty remarks thrown at them in the streets or in supermarkets: "Pedophile! I would not trust a priest ever again." For the vast majority who are innocent it is very painful to be suddenly toppled from a place of honor in the community to a place of disrepute. It has meant that the Church in general and the clergy in particular have lost much of the respect which they enjoyed. For many this loss of moral high ground is seen as disaster. How can they condemn evil now as they did in the past? However, if we look at it from a gospel perspective we may see a blessing in the persecution.

      In Luke's Sermon on the Plain - in contrast to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount - which we read about in today's Gospel we hear a balancing of blessings and woes;

Blessed are you                 Woe to you
who are poor                    who are rich
who are hungry      and    who are full
who weep                         who laugh
who are reviled                 who are lauded.

      As ever, Jesus gives the lie to many of our assumptions. He was the word become flesh and he entered a sinful community. By word and act he showed that he was on the side of the sinful. He said that sinners would be the first in his kingdom and he spent much of his time with people who were despised as sinners. His problem was with the self-righteous, self-sufficient and self-enclosing religious leaders who considered themselves above others and cut themselves off from those whom they called sinners. The Scribes and Pharisees were not the only people to set themselves off as better than others. It has been repeated many times in history by church and civil leaders. The assumption of high moral ground is a widespread temptation. It can be the sickness of those who set themselves up to pray for sinners and thereby deny their own weakness. (A friend of mine used to say that many who credit themselves as virtuous are simply those who lacked opportunity.)

      The community of Jesus' disciples must recognize their own continuing sinfulness, and so must their priestly leaders, if Jesus' saving grace is to get through. The pedestal role of a priest, or of anyone else, is always dangerous. Being faced with our own sinfulness, and the sinfulness of our esteemed leaders, bring home the point that sin and holiness overlap in everybody. Being mocked or reviled is a blessing when it reminds us of our common sinfulness and our need for Gods grace and redemption.

      St John of the Cross said that those who think that they are doing well should be careful when they go before the Lord in prayer that they are not there to glorify themselves rather than to glorify the Lord. To be before God in meditation, just trying and failing to repeat the prayer word, is an experience of our human weakness that makes us open to awareness of our never ending need for the Lord who alone is good and sinless.


Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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