The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

Light on the stand

Whatever is hiden will be disclosed.

Whatever is hiden will be disclosed.

The light on the stand in today’s gospel lesson is not this little light of mine. It is the light of Christ revealing that which is hidden. Jesus hated hypocrisy. Again and again, the gospels tell of his preaching about those who know the law but don’t do it, who strap burdens upon others they’re not willing to take upon themselves, who are all whitewash on the outside but just a pile of stinking rot within. These are parables about the Kingdom, and Jesus is saying the Kingdom is like light on a lightstand that reveals what’s in the dark corners of a room. It is the light of truth, and there’s no place to hide.

The lesson continues. We are blessed by giving, and those who give most are most blessed. Those who refuse to give get nothing. (We’re not talking about those who have nothing to give.) Giving participates in the providence of God, the love of God for creation. Giving is the way of holiness. Jesus says refusing to give results in losing even what I have. As Dory might say, “Just keep giving, just keep giving.”

Stewardship, then, is giving away what one has been given by God, whether that be material wealth, intellectual power or spiritual gifts. Holiness, the giving by which we participate in the love of Jesus, is to give without calling attention to ourselves, as the hypocrites do. It is to give without expecting something in return. Holy giving is simply to pour out what one has, what one is, so that those in the neighborhood who have not may be blessed by God. And it is God who should be thanked, not the giver.

God bestows upon ordained people a gift of service to the community of faith. The Holy Spirit empowers and the Holy Church authorizes this or that person to be sacramental in specific, though limited, ways. One is made worthy of that ministry only by the grace of God. God does not bestow position or rank but an interior disposition to give away what has been given, grace that comes by virtue of the sacraments, God’s special presence in the world brought in the power of the Spirit through the Church. The stewardship of such a gift is no more or less than God in Christ requires for any other gift, but poor stewardship of one’s ordination seems doubly offensive, blasphemous in a way that seems more onerous than, say, hoarding one’s wealth.

What could be more hypocritical than a priest who is a poor steward of the gifts of the Spirit that come with ordination? What could be more blasphemous than to deny the truth bestowed by the laying on of hands, to live a lie instead?

Jesus hates hypocrisy but not hypocrites, and that’s good news for those who have been poor stewards of the Church’s ordination. Divine love — real love — is like that, because it forgives what’s been done while embracing the repentant sinner. Forgiven sinners aren’t necessarily out of the woods, but at least there’s a light on the stand to show them the way home.

Posted by Prodigal + to A prodigal priest at 7/19/2005 08:39:00 AM

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