November 5, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Leading: a Sunday Scriptures blog

This Sunday’s readings hit home. Surveys consistently report that we U.S. people distrust institutions. We distrust all branches of government including the Supreme Court, churches, and also our Church. We are scandalized, outraged or at least disappointed in them all. Jesus also was distressed by the religious leaders of his day. It was a persistent problem, it seems. In our Gospel from Mark, Jesus is speaking in the tradition of the prophet Malachi, our Hebrew Scripture for today, who around 500 years earlier chastised the priests of his day. And when early Christians began to form communities, the Apostles were also concerned that the new Christian faith have credible leaders. Thessalonians, our Epistle today, is the earliest writing of the New Testament, around 55 CE (Christian Era). We hear Paul saying that he supports himself through “toil and drudgery”; in other words, Paul is not paid by the faithful, living off them like “clergy” of other religions. He makes his own living; we believe as a tentmaker. In John’s Gospel, written around the year 100, this concern about leadership is reflected in the Last Supper scene where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and tells them to be servants of those in their charge. Institutions are made up of people like us. And just like us, people working in institutions also are attracted by power, prestige, profit and position — getting ahead of others. Of course we pray today that we have competent and holy leaders in our churches. We also look into our own hearts. Where do we not practice what we preach? Where do we see burdens but not lift a finger to move them? What little things do we do that we hope others will notice and praise? Which of our decisions and acts flow from partiality or bias? When do we take credit and forget to credit God for our good abilities and gifts? These are all questions we hear in today’s readings which are meant for all of us, not only for our leaders.

— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia; photo by Ksenia Chernaya

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