Anyone who has worked with me for very long knows that I admonish all my priests and bishops to remember that they are always deacons. This confuses many people and others feel it is beneath them to be deacons. Why? Because to be a deacon means to be a servant to all.
Jesus in this weekend’s gospel reminds us that we are called to be humble servants. He warns us against being puffed up and self-aggrandizing. The religious leaders of Jesus day were all about the glory and prestige but had no desire to live the message of the scriptures. They even went as far as to demand a level of holiness from everyone else that they could not live up to themselves.
We in the Christian faith have many such leaders in our midst today. Either thru willful ignorance or blatant ego they build up burdens for people to carry that would crush them if they tried. They expect a level of holiness that no human being could possibly live up to.
Bishop James St. George and Father Liam Murphy shared a quote from Pope Francis this week that really helps put this Gospel message in perspective.
“Think of a single mother who goes to the Church or the Parish and tells the secretary: I WANT TO BAPTIZE MY SON.” And the attendant says: No, you can’t, because you’re not married. Let’s keep in mind that this mother had the courage to continue with a pregnancy, and what is she facing? With a door closed! And so, if we continue this path and with this attitude, we are not doing the people, God’s People right. Jesus created the seven sacraments and with this attitude we created an eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs! WHO GOES TO THE CHURCH MUST FIND OPEN DOORS AND NOT TAXES OF FAITH … We need saints without veils, without underwear. We need jeans and sneaker saints. We need saints to go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with their friends. We need saints that put God first and stand out in university. We need saints who seek time to pray every day and know how to fall in love with purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity. We need modern day saints, 21st century saints with spirituality embedded in our time. We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social change. We need saints who live in the world, sanctify themselves in the world and who are not afraid to live in the world. We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who are internet users, who listen to iPod. We need saints who love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to have a beer or eat pizza on the weekend with friends. We need saints who love cinema, theater, music, dance, sports. We need sociable, open, normal, friendly, joyful, fellow saints. We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and good things of the world, but without being worldly. That has to be us!!!”
Sadly, the church continues to turn away people we deem as unworthy of God’s love or the sacraments filled with God’s grace. It is time we end this barbaric practice of gate-keeping the sacraments. If we truly believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and ever-present then God does not need us to gate-keep for them!
Instead, let us throw open the doors of the church and be radically inclusive and welcoming. Let us stop with the gossip and back-biting. Welcome everyone regardless of their past, the present or our preconceived notions of their future. Let us be a church that is willing to get into the gutter with the drug addict, the sex worker, and the homeless. Let us not be afraid to get our hands and clothes dirty loving all God’s children.
Come be a part of this movement! Come join Saint Francis Parish and Outreach as we work to change the world around us for the better!
Pax et Bonum!