Jesus wears the crown of glory because he first wore the crown of thorns. He proves true the teaching that God lifts up the lowly.
The crown of glory that will never fade awaits the faithful shepherds of God’s flock (1 Pt 5, 1-4). But it will be theirs only when the Chief Shepherd appears.
But not a few want to have the crown now. Like the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus called out, they crave people’s greetings, praises and reverences. And yet, oddly, they scorn the same people whose respect they seek, for they take themselves better than them.
So then, those who want to wear now the crown of glory do the right thing but for the wrong reason. And this is partly what hypocrisy is. They also jockey for places of honor and power. Moreover, they are self-righteous, judging others before the Lord comes (see 1 Cor 4, 5).
Such hypocrisy, careerism and self-righteousness smack of clericalism that could be another name for what was wrong with the scribes and the Pharisees. And clericalism is hardly new among the followers of Jesus (see Thomas Reese, S.J.).
We only need to call to mind the ambition of James and John (Mk 10, 35-45). And the others’ anger only shows that they themselves are not without ambitious thoughts. They had earlier, after all, been arguing who was the greatest (Mk 9, 34). And the coming of the Holy Spirit has yet to spell the death of clericalism. For even now Pope Francis urges us to say “no” to all its forms (see also Louis Arcenaux, C.M.).
And Reese explains that clericalism has its roots in the human condition. It “is simply the manifestation in the church of very human temptations that are present in every organization: ambition, pride, arrogance and the abuse of power.”
Wearing the crown of thorns
So, pride is at the root of clericalism. Might uprooting it, then, not mean putting on the lowliness that the crown of thorns entails?
Concretely, we all—both priests and lay persons bear responsibility for clericalism—should, like the publican, acknowledge we are sinners. This will stop us from boasting, as the Pharisee, of good works and from being scornful of others.
It will also lead one to say, “Who am I to judge?” And many will surely denounce him for his concern more about exploitation and injustice than about sexual sins between consenting adults (see Thomas Reese, S.J.). Are we willing to wear this crown of thorns, too?
Lord Jesus, we wait for the crown of righteousness that comes from you. Yours, not ours, are, all good works (SV.EN VII:305), for we are sinners. Look on our lowliness and let our prayer reach you. And help us understand that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (EG 47).
27 October 2019
30th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Sir 35, 12-14. 16-18; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 16-18; Lk 18, 9-14