Easter 02, Year C-2010
- Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant (Mt. 20:26)
Said Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., to priests gathered for a day of reflection :
- Friendship with Jesus—intimacy—means learning to be gentle and lowly of heart;
- then we shall find rest for our souls. But if one thinks of the Catholic Church,
- the first word that springs to mind might not be “humble.”
This former head of the Dominicans points out that the vast majority of priests and bishops whom he has met “are simple and unpretentious people who just wish to serve the people of God.” But he goes on to say that “this personal humility has to be sustained in the teeth of a clerical culture, common to all Christian denominations, which stresses rank and power.”
The church, laments Radcliffe, has often been infected by the same “culture of control or power” that used to be associated with royal or imperial powers claiming absolute authority and taking possession of the world. “This happened partly because the church has for centuries struggled to defend itself against the powers of this world who want to take it over. From the Roman Empire at the time of its birth until the communist empires of the 20th century, the church has fought to keep hold of its own life, and often ended up by mirroring what it opposed.”
And this culture of control, responsible for the enslavement of millions of people and their treatment as commodities, seems to Radcliffe—who takes the cue from Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age—to come hand in hand with the absence in society of belief in God’s gentle providential government of the world. The lack of such belief leaves the door open for, say, the state to take God’s place and impose its will, and soon enough society is seen as a mechanism rather than an organism, which needs to be adjusted and manipulated. “This culture of power,” further suggests Radcliffe, “is perhaps one reason for the widespread abuse of children in our society” and led—if I may suggest myself—to the kind of health care system in the U.S. that, according to almost everybody, needs reforming.
Believers in the Lord they were, for sure, those men and women in great number who were added, more than ever, to the apostles. They did not cease to believe in God’s gentle providence. Seeing the signs and wonders done among the people at the hands of the apostles, these men and women sought healing or cure, either for themselves or for others, and thus showed their belief in a God who cares.
In effect, believers then are the blessed poor, those who humbly recognize their need and are not motivated by greed. Believers are those who, far from imposing themselves and their beliefs on others, are able rather to reach out of their own little selves, their doubts and certainties, their very limited senses, and recognize someone bigger, more sensitive and more provident than themselves, and welcome others, including women, as partners in service. Believers are those who acknowledge that there is more to Jesus, to truth, to revelation and its signs and wonders, than can be recounted in books and explained in whatever available earthly forum by any earthly magisterium. Believers are those who share with other believers the distress, the kingdom and the endurance they all have in Jesus, and are, therefore, graced with revelation for the common good, as the Lord looks with favor on their lowliness.
Believers, ultimately, are those who do as Jesus has done, washing others’ feet, serving rather than being served, giving their lives for others, and eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord without failing to discern the body lest they eat and drink judgment on themselves (Jn. 13:15; Mt. 20: 28; 1 Cor. 11:23-29).