32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers." (Mk. 12:38-44)
In Mark's gospel, Jesus reminds our Church parishioners of the necessity to avoid leaders who find joy in wearing lavash garbs, love to sit in honor, and attend elegant banquets. Jesus also states that they devour the houses of widows. In other words, because these types of leaders have power, they take advantage of the unfortunate. Their prayers are lengthy without conviction. These types of leaders are suffering from PMS: Power, Money, and Sex. I have seen the corruption of power and money trickery at the hands of Catholic and Protestant faith leaders over the years. Reflecting more intimately, some Church ministers live in mansions resembling the scribes' lifestyles with extravagant robes. Daniel Burke, a CNN Belief Blog writer in 2014, reported on the lavish homes of American Bishops in the Catholic Church. Personally stunned by this report, Burke disclosed how some Cardinals' and Bishops' manners reflected the rich and famous. Burked noted that in 2014, "Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York leads the pack with a 15,000-square-foot mansion on Madison Avenue, in one of the priciest corridors of Manhattan." This mansion is still Cardinal Dolan's residence with some other priests. One must also understand that there are some Protestant ministers as well whose homes cost millions of dollars. I wish our leaders would meditate on the words of the Prophet Amos, "I will strike the winter house and the summer house; The houses of ivory shall lie in ruin, and their many rooms shall be no more" (Am. 3:15). Are our leaders attached to power and money? Going back to biblical days, we can trace many years of men objectifying women. In the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus had many women parade in front of him and other men before crowning Esther as queen (Es. 2). And in the gospels, we know of a young woman whose provocative dance pleased Herod and the other men so much that Herod promised to give the young lady whatever she wanted. Prompted by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod granted her wish (Mt. 14:1-12; Mk. 6:17-29 ). We also know that plenty of media and newsprint exists in our Church, documenting damaging moralistic sexual behavior towards children. Therefore, the second half of Mark's gospel reading is intriguing. When reading this gospel, the Widow's Mite, we must consider her a powerful woman with spiritual tenacity. She does not seem intimidated by her surroundings.
The leaders that Jesus spoke of apparently did not devour her. She discerned their lengthy prayers as having no substance or wisdom to enhance her worship. This woman knew that the freedom that comes from being close to God meant detaching herself from her riches and trusting that God would supply all her needs. Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury." She knew that God would take care of her tomorrow. Yes, detachment is the key in this gospel. The scribes and leaders of our day are finding this spiritual practice difficult. To give up power and control is destroying many of the spiritual giants in our world. For this reason, I am inspired by these words from Pope Francis when he first accepted his papacy in 2013. He said, "I would love a church that is poor." Sadly, after this pronouncement by the leader of the Church, our spiritual leader, some refuse to detach themselves from their spendthrift lifestyles. They still live in mansions while our schools and churches close. One day I hope to see a Bishop sell what he has and build schools. "The practice of detachment is primarily an attitude of the heart. It is the opposite of attachment, which is emotional dependence on a person, object, idea, method, etc. We must not only want what is good – but we must want it in a way that is good." Author Unknown Pray for our Church! There is a balm in Gilead to heal the symptoms of PMS from many of our leaders. Do you believe this? If not, then ask Jesus to help your unbelief. Elaborate homes of Bishops Pope Francis, "I would love a Church that is poor!" Here are five other common temptations and attachments that require self-discipline and detachment:
1. The lust for power and control over others, 2. The lust for power over nature, 3. The lust for knowledge to be used to manipulate others, 4. The lust for intense excitement or sensation and 5. The demand to have the last word.
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard Read more on detachment.