Date: Sunday, March 04, 2018
It surprises us. Jesus makes a whip, turns over tables and expels people from the holy Temple. The area is both a courtyard with access to sacred space for worship and a thoroughfare for visitors to move in and out of the city of Jerusalem. Pilgrims need to exchange offensive Roman coins (with images of the emperor or deities) in order to purchase an animal for sacrifice. (After the burnt offering meat from the animals sacrificed is given to the poor.) Jesus may be mad at the exorbitant fees but the magnitude of the crowd and noise of transactions are a major distraction. Jesus cries out: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s House a marketplace!” The prophet action and words of Jesus will cost him. What he says and does threaten the established order. Jesus is both good shepherd (pastor) and preacher of the imminent coming of God’s Kingdom that demands a response from those who hear his preaching. Jesus proclaims both salvation and judgment.
We admire Billy Graham. My mom watched him on television. He was pastor and preacher to countless Americans who attended his crusades. He was a confidant of presidents. I wonder if he ever felt tension between being pastor and preacher? It is not easy to speak truth to power.
A pastor’s role is to counsel, comfort, encourage and forgive. A preacher’s role is to speak God’s Word that can both console and confront. For example, in our first reading from Exodus, God “delivers” the commandments that demand reverence for God, for God’s name and for keeping God’s Sabbath; that prohibit murder, adultery, stealing, dishonesty, coveting your neighbor’s property or body. It is not easy to bring the Word of God and the Gospel message into the assembly when political discourse has become so polarized. What is the preacher to say regarding: accessible health care, immigration, gun safety, sanctity of human life in the womb, respect for dignity of women, unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, individual rights, welfare of the community and clergy abuse of children?
Sadly new revelations of teens abused by a priest are part of the news cycle. It coincides with an already planned Diocesan announcement of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. Bishop Malone explains: “Individuals who have previously made claims will be contacted and invited to participate in this voluntary program offering monetary settlements. The victims and our Church in WNY cannot move forward until the pain of the past is properly addressed. We pray this monetary compensation together with the acknowledgment that they were hurt can be a significant step in helping them to heal.” Former NYS Supreme Court Justice Jerome Gorski and former NYS Supreme Court Justice and Surrogate Judge Barbara Howe will administer the program. The Bishop urges persons who have been deeply harmed to come forward.
Lent is a season of honesty and introspection, repentance, conversion, healing and forgiveness.