Homily – October 21, 2018

Our first reading from Isaiah is from Chapter 53 it tells of God’s suffering servant. It is a reading used on Good Friday as t the church applies these words of Isaiah to our crucified Christ as we remember him hanging on his cross, stripped, wearing his mock crown of thorns, nails through his hands and feet.

What was true of Isaiah’s suffering servant was true of our crucified Christ; ‘he was rejected and despised by others, a man of suffering, he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, by his bruises we are healed.

From its very beginning the church has always to deal with climbers. James and John started the trend causing their fellow disciples to get angry at their pushiness.

Jesus had to set them straight. No one is to lord it over others. Jesus gave us the example we are all to follow. ‘The son of man came, not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Real glory doesn’t come from lording it over others, but from serving others. Jesus is most glorious in his crucifixion, when he has lost everything but love. But the tendency to be ‘number one’ has always been in our genetic make-up. We all want to be notice, appreciated and duly recognized and loved. We want the flood lights t shining on us.

Pope Francis, to the chagrin of many, has called the church, but especially the clergy to have the smell of the sheep. It’s a powerful image. We are to be so close to the daily lives of people that we pick up the odor of their pains and fears and desperation. He does this in the simple actions of washing the feet of immigrants and prisoners. He provides showers and laundering at St. Peter’s for the homeless men and women of Rome. He maintains that clericalism, that sense of privilege or of recognition of being someone special in the family of the church is a scourge and plague on the church. Bishops and priests who think of themselves as over and above the rest of the people of God are so off base. There are churchmen who resent the openness of Pope Francis to the basic needs of people; the Pope is getting too soft. For them there’s too much talk of love in the church and too little about hatred of evil.” He’s inherited all the pomp and circumstances of the papacy but he’s obviously uncomfortable with it all.

We are supposed to be a servant church at the service of the good people who seek justice, love and support in the struggles of their daily living. It was Pope Pius V who described himself as Pope as ‘The servant of the servants of God.’

We do need authority in the life of the church. We usually think of the word authority as ‘power over people.’ One of the meanings of the word ‘authority’ is that we author, stimulate, encourage people to grow, we coax what is best out of them. This meaning of authority is just the opposite of putting people down, belittling them in one way of another. St. Paul encourages us, authorizes us to say to family members, co-workers, even strangers only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them. That’s how we can be servants to one another by encouraging the very best in others. This is how we do our part to make our church a servant church.