In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ (NJB)
I read a headline today, the Good Pope Francis is saddened by the number of priests, and prelates who use their office to enrich themselves; loving money, seemingly more than they love the people who they have been appointed to serve.
I think of the priesthood today, the priests strolling around in their long dresses. Doing today exactly what Mark complained about, in regards to the scribes.
Today’s priests are yesterday’s scribes.
I think of the monies that all churches spend on their liturgies, their choirs, their incense, their candles; ostensibly to honor the creator, but really I think it is vanity, and they seek only to honor themselves, to take pride in their pageantry, and pat themselves on the back.
The liturgies themselves do little to honor God, or creation, with the creeds and the common prayers serving more to divide one group from another than to bring them together. In my church, the Catholic church, even the eucharist (imagined as God’s own self) is used as a bludgeon, to beat back the people if they are not toeing the line. Those traditions dishonor the gospel, by seeking to keep God confined.
The real presence of God is already alive in all people. The church, if it is to be relevant to more than a few, needs to empty itself, empty its treasury, and meet God where God is living in the hearts of God’s ministers, in the hearts of their neighbors, in the poor, and the sick, in the criminal as well as the “good” citizen.
The church must emulate the widow in this Gospel, and give all it has.