Thursday, November 8, 2012

The best of the Church

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 4, 2012

Mark 12: 38-44

The contrast between the two scenes couldn't be stronger. In the first, Jesus puts the people on guard against religious leaders: "Beware of the scribes!", their behavior can be very harmful. In the second, he calls his disciples to take note of the gesture of a poor widow: ordinary people can teach them to live out the Gospel.

The hard and sure language that Jesus uses to unmask the false religion of the scribes is surprising. He can't stand their vanity and desire for ostentation. They seek to dress a special way and be greeted with reverence to stand out over others, impose, and dominate.

They use religion to feed fatuity. They recite "long prayers" to impress. They don't create community since they put themselves above everyone else. Basically, they're just thinking of themselves. They live taking advantage of the weak whom they should be serving.

Mark doesn't gather Jesus' words to condemn the scribes that were in the Temple of Jerusalem before its destruction, but to put the Christian communities for whom he is writing on guard. Religious leaders are to be servants of the community. Nothing more. If they forget it, they're a danger to all. You have to react so they don't do damage.

In the second scene, Jesus is seated opposite the Temple treasury. Many rich people are throwing in significant amounts -- they're the ones who support the Temple. Suddenly a woman approaches. Jesus notes that she throws in two small copper coins. She's a poor widow, battered by life, alone and without resources. She probably lives by begging near the Temple.

Moved, Jesus calls his disciples quickly. They mustn't forget this woman's gesture, because although she's in need, "she has thrown in everything she had to live." While the learned are taking advantage of religion, this woman has let go of everything for others, trusting completely in God.

Her gesture reveals the heart of true religion -- great trust in God, surprising gratuity, generosity and loving solidarity, simplicity and truth. We don't know the name of this woman or her face. We only know that Jesus saw in her a model for the future leaders of his Church.

Today too, so many women and men of simple faith and generous heart are the best we have in the Church. They don't write books or give sermons, but they're the ones who keep the Gospel of Jesus alive among us. We priests and bishops must learn from them.

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