“That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely” (Lk 12:47).
Jesus, as did the prophets, spoke in ways that can be jarring. The purpose was to shake his listeners out of a dull stupor and to make clear his point. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus addressed Peter’s question: “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone” (Lk 12:41)? Jesus was most likely speaking to Peter and the Twelve. They are the ones he entrusted with continuing his mission of the kingdom of God. And just as he had been clear to point out those Pharisees who had abused their positions, he was being clear with Peter and the apostles. Jesus wanted to be clear with his successors that they were not to continue on with business as usual. What Jesus required of them was not just for themselves, but those whose care they have been entrusted with and beyond them to all the nations.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed those in Church leadership who have in effect, “beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk” (Lk 12:45) on their own power. Those who have: abused children, covered abuse, skimmed off the top of the donations of the blood, sweat and tears of their parishioners’ donations, limited access to positions within the leadership of the Church to only male or clergy, been unmerciful confessors, held up the sin of one group or groups while turning a blind eye to others. These and other forms of hypocrisy do irreparable damage.
The world has been darkened by sin, but not destroyed by it. Jesus has entered the darkness of our fallen nature and has not been overcome by it. Even when those of the Body of Christ participate and perpetuate the darkness, we are not to lose heart nor our hope. As Bishop Robert Barron writes, we are called out of “the realm of hatred, racism, sexism, violence, oppression, imperialism, what Augustine termed the libido dominandi (the lust to dominate).”
We are called to be children of the light. We will do so by being willing to embrace the light of Christ which reveals to us our sin. With humility and contrition we then confess them and from this place of surrender we will be more and more transformed such that we begin to reflect and share his light with others still in darkness. As heralds of his Good News, may we seek opportunities to share the purifying light and healing salve of the Father’s Love we have received with those we meet today.
Photo: Crucifix front entrance of Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center
Barron, Robert. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith. NY: Image, 2011.