We could have dubbed this week leading up to Holy Week “Hypocrisy Week,” given the general theme of the readings at daily Mass. Jesus goes tête-à-tête with the Pharisees, pointing out their duplicity and false piety to them. There is a subtle danger in cheering him on, which we don’t think about often and could run the risk of never seeing it.
The apostles did not see it when Jesus rode into town, cheered on by the crowds on Palm Sunday. Those same apostles would abandon him in less than a week and those same crowds would demand to have him crucified. We recall this great mystery of fickle human nature in the liturgy each year as a reminder that Jesus’ hard teaching is for each and every one of us, not just everyone else.
One thing I think Pope Francis has done is to set a first hand example of how the Church itself is not exempt from the precept that we must live what we profess to believe and preach. He has called us to set a better example of living Gospel poverty, taught and lived by Jesus, and the first ones he called out on this are the leaders of the Church, bishops and priests.
So when an certain archbishop is called to task, in private or public letters addressed to him, for failing in this regard, and he acknowledges this, apologizes, and takes the proper step toward making amends, by selling his $2-Million Dollar house, he deserves… further rebuke for this?
I admit, I’m a little unnerved, not because of the lashing out from secular media and anti-clerical pundits. I expect those people to generalize, distort, and delete the relevant facts to suit their Church hating agenda. They relish these sorts of opportunity. It would be more of a shock if they left it alone instead of taking full advantage of it. It’s more the people I would not expect to see jumping on this bandwagon, especially the Catholics, who’ve been swayed by the spin and the sensational headlines to criticize and even openly attack Archbishop Wilton Gregory.
The Archbishop has been accused of being a politician. Apparently it’s easier to be a cynic than give another sinner the benefit of the doubt that he, like Zaccheus, might have had a change of heart and decided to rectify his behavior before God and his fellow man. It thus becomes impossible to recognize a good example when we see it.
I find this attitude saddening. It makes me wonder how then it can be possible for any of us to reflect seriously on how we ought to amend our own lives by cutting back on our own expenses, thinking more in terms of serving the poor, improving the world by improving ourselves first, and setting an example for others to follow — all of this is vain from the cynic’s perspective. Thus will the cynic be judged according to his actions.
The Church is constantly calling us to renew our convictions as people living in the world, but not of the world, and to reform our lives when we have fallen into vices of greed and luxury (envy, anger, etc…). I have to admire a man who can recognize what he has done wrong, admit it, and step up to make the changes he needs to make in this regard. I can’t take the criticism of the bishop’s lack of poverty seriously coming from publications that flash lifestyles of opulence in our faces constantly through their advertising. If people were really thinking of the poor (rather than pointing at the splinter in someone else’s eye), I think they would see the good example set by Archbishop Gregory and applaud it. What’s in your eye?