Opening the Word: Disordered disciples

By: OSV Newsweekly

James is direct: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (Jas 3:16). A church that sets itself up as a community of power fails to participate in God’s wisdom.

Such a church will be without the fruits of peace, of friendship, and of mercy. Mercy in this passage has a specific meaning. It’s not just in contrast to justice. Mercy is the movement of the heart toward compassion, toward care for one’s brother and sister in Christ.

A church that is without mercy, compassion and solidarity does bear fruit. Rotten fruit. In such a jealous, ambitious community, there will be war. There will be violence. There will be sensual delight and desire.

The disciples, in the Gospel of Mark, want to establish a church based in selfish ambition. In Mark 8, Jesus had taught his disciples what it means to be a messiah, a great ruler and king — to give oneself away in love, even unto death. And he begins to teach them again: “‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise’” (Mk 9:31).

Often, in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples misunderstand. They don’t just misinterpret because they’re naïve or incapable of understanding. They can’t understand because they are sinners, suffering from selfish ambition. So, despite Jesus’ teaching about what it means to “rule,” they talk among themselves about who was the greatest! Who is as powerful as the king, Jesus!

We can imagine the conversation. Peter argues, “Well, I was the first one to profess Jesus as Messiah.” Andrew answers back, perhaps under his breath, “And then you were called Satan.” A community of power, of war, of desire and of sensual delight.

Jesus will have no part in this argument. He picks up a child in his arms, puts the child in the center of the room and proclaims: “‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me …” (Mk 9:37).

What a bitter passage for us to read right now in the American Church. With the release of the Pennsylvania report, there has been painful evidence that the child was not received. In the fighting back and forth between prelates, we see a war unfolding in the Church. In the sexual abuse of seminarians, we see the effects of a sensual delight turned into a function of power. We see disorder and every foul practice.

The Church must be renewed. Some of this renewal will involve changes in structures of governance, and happily so. But the renewal we most need is to place the little one, the child, the one without power, at our center.

Think about Christmas. On this feast, we celebrate that the ruler of the stars now gazes up at the stars with wonder. The Word, the very meaning of the universe, became flesh. He nurses upon the breast, grows hungry and cries.

This is the child who must be at the center of the Church. We don’t consecrate bishops, ordain priests or baptize Christians to create a hierarchy of order. A church full of ambition is a church without fruit. We baptize, we ordain and we consecrate so that we can order men and women alike to the wondrous mercy revealed in the Word made flesh.

As long as ecclesial politics is at the center of our imagination, rather than the crucified Lord, we will continue to bear the most bitter of fruit.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word: Disordered disciples

Friday, September 21, 2018
By: Timothy P. O'Malley OSV Newsweekly James is direct: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul... Read More

What will state abuse investigations yield?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
By:  Brian Fraga OSV Newsweekly Following the lead of Pennsylvania’s attorney general, a growing number of law enforcement leaders... Read More

Not-so-new clothes

Monday, September 17, 2018
By: Teresa Tomeo OSV Newsweekly Children’s stories can still have profound meaning for adults. One of my favorites, “The... Read More

Opening the Word: That kind of king

Friday, September 14, 2018
By: Timothy P. O'Malley OSV Newsweekly There’s a moment of a plot called the “climax.” It’s the turning point of a story,... Read More

New law links pornography, human trafficking

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
By:  Susan Klemond OSV Newsweekly Unlike reality shows, pornography is very real. The sexual abuse and degradation that female and child porn... Read More

Seal of confession

Monday, September 10, 2018
By:  Msgr. Owen F. Campion OSV Newsweekly Artists have given saints some interesting symbols. In art, St. John Nepomucene wears a... Read More

Opening the Word: The hidden reign

Friday, September 7, 2018
By: Timothy P. O'Malley OSV Newsweekly In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus repeatedly does something we’d consider odd. Our Lord performs a miracle,... Read More

Faith and science working together

Wednesday, September 5, 2018
By: Amy Marter OSV Newsweekly Writing commands in computer code, attaching sensors and connecting circuit boards are usually not the first things... Read More

In face of denial

Monday, September 3, 2018
By: Teresa Tomeo OSV Newsweekly As the “summer of suffering in the Church” continues to unfold, so too does the shocking reality that... Read More

A lovable law

Friday, August 31, 2018
By: Timothy P. O'Malley OSV Newsweekly Throughout the Gospels, we hear regularly about the Pharisees. A Pharisee, in the popular imagination,... Read More