Today, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our pastor reminded us about the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, an annual exercise where pastors are required to direct their parishioners, while sitting in the pews, to actually fill out annual financial pledges for the Diocese. He briefly reminded us about the pledge cards (from last Sunday) before he began the homily this morning. I really appreciated the brevity, as it is our desire at that time to learn a lesson of God, not to be lectured on the needs of our very, very wealthy Diocesan church.
Interestingly, during he Liturgy of the Eucharist, with my eyes closed, I saw in my mind our resurrected Jesus Christ dressed in a common, dirty and dingy one-piece ankle-length tunic, as if atoning, standing behind the priest and deacon at the altar, inaudibly exhorting,
Come, all you who are thirsty and hungry! Come, take, eat, drink for free! I give it freely!
The Lord our God exhorts us that He does not charge us for His love. He does not require from us a tithe to Him for what He offers. It is offered freely, out of true love. And, He gives us a symbol of personal atonement and embarrassment, on our behalf.
I sensed His embarrassment about the calls for funds, calls which seem to constantly emanate from the ambo in the sanctuaries of our parish chapels during these times. The message is, “If you pay us, we will serve you and ourselves, too.” This is not the Lord’s message, though, and He wants to make that clear. For-pay permanent deacons, heed this warning.
I sensed His atonement for the sins of the Church Hierarchy. The Lord is embarrassed at the many scandals which have been revealed – scandals at the hands of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, teachers and parents – and instead of the Hierarchy contritely atoning for sins, it continues – administering daily routines – focusing on the money that can be gathered in from the hands of the Faithful during this season of alms-giving, fasting and prayer. But, who is atoning besides Jesus? That is, who is making amends, in their hearts, for the wrongs that have been perpetrating on the Church by its own Hierarchy?
Perhaps, during Lent, the Church Hierarchy should be atoning with Jesus Christ and alms-giving, not project-promoting and wealth-begging. Certainly, projects are necessary, but, perhaps, now during Lent is a very good time for atoning. For as it is written and as it was read at the Ash Wednesday Liturgy of the Word,
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'” [Joel 2:17]
The Lord Jesus makes Himself present and known, “I Am here! Know Me. I Am not leaving you.” But, the Church Hierarchy sometimes makes Him seem less present, less real, more like Money, less like Love, less like He Who Atones and Redeems. If priests participate in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, then priests should be moved, internally, to offer more outward signs of atonement for the sins of the Hierarchy.
At the end of the Mass for the final blessing, our Lord Jesus stood behind the altar, in front of His Tabernacle, and, with eyes closed, I only saw His blessing.