Thursday, February 4, 2010

The church is strongest when it is weak, wealthiest when it is poor (Thursday, Week IV in Ordinary Time, Mark 6:7-13)

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by twoand gave them authority over unclean spirits.He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no sack, no money in their belts.They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.He said to them,“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,leave there and shake the dust off your feetin testimony against them.”So they went off and preached repentance.The Twelve drove out many demons,and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

* * * * * * * * *

This morning I learned from a classmate that the Vermont diocese is selling its chancery to pay settlement for abuse cases. I know the bishop of the diocese personally; he’s a very good man. It was sad to learn of this awful turn of events. How tragic, I thought, to once again be faced with the horror of ruined lives on the part of the victims of abuse. There is simply no fathoming the depth of an abuse victim's pain. How difficult it must be for the bishop who inherited the mess, how painful it must be to the people of the diocese to see the resources they built up over the years, resources meant to further the church's mission, be used to atone for the sins of the priests they trusted. Selling a chancery, the local church's 'nerve center', what a loss! But then I remembered the gospel this morning.

"He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in their belts".

When you really think about it though, and take history seriously, the ages of the church's widest expansion and the times of its greatest spiritual and religious influence in the lives of its people has always been when it was dirt poor, marginalized, and treated as a second class citizen.

The loss of its belongings, its poverty have never been the church's enemies but its strongest ally. Perhaps all this loss of worldly possessions, sad, tragic, and even depressing as it might be, is the Spirit's way of telling us to go back to our roots. And until such time when we finally get what he's trying to say, he will continue to bleed us out of the wealth and power that continue to blind us.

The church is most powerful when it is weak, wealthiest when it is poor, and most influential when it embraces not the powerful forces of society, but its weakest, most abused, neediest, and most despised members; because when it does, it embraces not the world, but Christ.

How easily we forget.

"He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in their belts".


"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)