Updated: Jan 14
This weekend we hear from the prophetic book of Baruch, which was written for three reasons:
1. to explain the Babylonian exile as God's judgment;
2. to praise the wisdom of God's Law;
3. and to foretell the restoration of Jerusalem.
Today's passage is the final chapter of the book. It speaks of hope in God's mercy and justice.
We have heard many times the phrase, “to act in justice” or to wear the "cloak of justice". I think it means being self-integrated, honest, and humble so as to give true worship, that is, worship that is free of corruption and full of compassion.
Baruch links worship and acts of justice in the face of a corrupt Temple bureaucracy. We see that even in the year 586 BC or so, there were challenges to worship because there was, one the one hand, the call to worship God, but on the other hand, that call usually happened in a system that was governed by humans, sometimes, not so good humans. Sometimes the leadership of the Temple was not the best example of the God they worshipped.
That’s not a hard concept to grasp because we know that even now, here in our day, our desire to worship God, here in this “temple”, our parish and our Church, we can sometimes be distracted by clergy or staff or volunteers associated with the institution who are less than stellar examples of faith who are called inspire us. In fact, they might cause the opposite reaction. We might call that our struggle with witnessing hypocrisy. But just as in the time of Baruch, so too in our time, bad ministers, who distract us are not an excuse for us to forego our obligation to worship our God. While hypocrisy is a hard pill to swallow, it does not absolve you and I of our obligation to rise above and be the better person.
Christian hypocrisy occurs when we make ourselves the priority over God. Often hypocrisy is an accusation against a person, but as we have also seen, churches too can become hypocritical and cultivate a culture of hypocrisy. And that culture can blind us not only to the worship we are called to participate in, but blind us to the God we are called to worship in the first place.
While there are many ways that this can happen, here are a few:
1. When the church becomes fixated on external preferences, not internal devotion.
2. When church leaders seek religious prominence instead of humble service.
3. When the church hides double standards with artificial rules.
4. When the church adds to the Gospel in ways that burden people.
I’m sure that you can name some of your own!
In the days of Baruch, the Temple was called to be a beacon for God's glory … a place where both Jews and non-Jews alike could see that glory shine. And that glory came from listening to and trying to emulate God's word.
That’s the reputation that our Church, our parish is called to have, that it be a place where believers and non-believers alike could know, that in that place, there are people who have chosen to live their lives differently. People, who each in their own way give God glory primarily through acts of justice and mercy.
When people tell the story of St Teresa of Avila, what do they say? Do they talk about me? About you? Or about us and what we are trying to accomplish together? What do they say? Because the Church is a reflection of all of us … and how brightly that light of glory shines depends on every person … those who come all the time, and those who will be back just in time for Christmas.
I know that on this side of heaven, a perfect Church is not possible. We would ruin it the moment we joined. We don’t need a perfect Church, we need and have a perfect Savior, but the Church, that is you and I, are called to be authentic … authentic Catholics … each doing the best we can … every day … being perfected by the love of Jesus … who challenges those who are comfortable and comforts those who are challenged.
We work on our own, in our families and together in our parish, so that the One who began the good work in us will bring it to completion.
So, this week, let’s do an authenticity check!
Each of us, looking into our hearts and honestly assessing where we are strong, and where we need some work …
Everyone of us thinking about how we can better prepare the way of the Lord …
We do so not that our light may shine, but that his light, and his kingdom will … !