Even in Church circles these days it is quite common to engage a management consultant company to help find people for a particular diocesan job. This is a good idea and often these companies find excellent people for the task.
I recently saw a consultant’s profile for a diocese seeking a lay chancellor. We all know these people must be upright citizens, but I am convinced that Jesus himself may have been challenged to fill this job description! Apart from having degrees in civil and canon law, the desired applicant had to have “outstanding Catholic faith, an exemplary moral character and have nothing in his or her background that could cause the Church embarrassment or scandal in the future.”
A couple of days later I came across a tongue-in-cheek summary of a management consultant’s report on those who had applied to lead the earliest Christian Church:
“John: Says he is a Baptist, but definitely doesn't dress like one. Has slept in the outdoors for months on end, has a weird diet, and picks fights in public with religious leaders.
“Peter: Has a bad temper, even has been known to curse. Had a big run-in with Paul in Antioch. Aggressive. A loose cannon.
“Paul: Powerful, CEO type of leader and fascinating preacher. However, short on tact, unforgiving with young ministers, harsh, and has been known to preach all night.
“Jesus: Has been popular at times, but once when his following grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all and it dwindled down to some faithful women and his best friend. Seldom stays in one place very long.
“Judas: His references are solid. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. Great possibilities here."
In today’s Gospel we hear what a fierce character John the Baptist was. He lets the Pharisees and Sadducees have it with both barrels. These groups were the publicly devout churchgoers of their day. They were often hypocrites, professing one thing and doing another. We know they regularly demanded observances of ordinary Jews that they did not live out themselves. No wonder John disliked them so much.
Their religious observance was a charade, focused on their needs, their souls, their salvation. They were going to get to heaven, and everyone else be damned! They even come out to the wilderness to get baptized. This was like going to salvation mega-store. They buy a little of everything, just to be sure. John attacks them violently and in doing so condemns their privatized religion and lack of social responsibility.
In our Catholic faith there is an important distinction between personal and private faith. Personal faith knows that God is close and intimate, which is what we celebrate at Christmas. For Christians, however, there is no such thing as private faith. We should always be careful of prayers and songs that only ever speak about “me and Jesus against the world.” Inheriting the promises made to Israel and seeing them as intended for all God’s children, we believe we are saved AS A PEOPLE. For us, it is “we and Jesus for the world.”
If we have no interest in justice, development, and peace for our world; if we don’t care to know our fellow parishioners; if all we want is to be left alone, to come to Mass, say our prayers and save our souls, then we need to hear the story of Christmas all over again.
John the Baptist’s call to “Prepare the way of the Lord” is a summary of the purpose of the season of Advent. Every year, as we celebrate the Nativity, we celebrate once again the presence of God in our world. God became incarnate in the world through Jesus but also always was and continues to be incarnate in the world through each person. If we are to accept this reality and live it out, we need to remind ourselves this Advent to prepare the way for the Lord to be present in and through us every day of our lives.
May this Advent see John the Baptist do what he does best: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Phoenix Boys Choir
Don’t forget to get your tickets for next Sunday’s Christmas concert by the Phoenix Boys Choir. Advance tickets are $5.00 less than tickets at the door ~ if we don’t sell out.
eGiving with Faith Direct
This month we are introducing a new and exciting way for you to support our parish offertory and second collections: Faith Direct. Faith Direct enables parishioners to make your Church contributions through either direct debit from your checking/savings account or through your credit/debit card. No more writing checks or searching for envelopes on the way out the door. Now you can apply the convenience of direct debit to your parish offerings in much the same way as you may now use it to make your mortgage, car or tuition payments.
Faith Direct also offers you personalized offertory cards to replace your envelopes for the collection basket.
Please join me in enrolling by responding to the mailing you will receive or visit www.faithdirect.net to enroll securely online. Our parish code is AZ597.
God Bless You!
Rev. Dennis O’Rourke, V.F.