Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily March 4.
I’m sure you’ve all heard sayings like “Power corrupts” and “money is power.” It is very sad to see how often people and institutions set out to provide a valuable service and then end up blinded — corrupted — by one or more of the four Pernicious Ps: the disordered pursuit of power, possessions, pleasure and/or prestige.
In today’s Gospel we have Jesus cleansing the Temple. When merchants first set up shop there, it was to provide a valuable service — make it easier for visitors to acquire animals for sacrifice once they got to Jerusalem. But what began as a useful service turned into a racket. The priests in charge of blemish control got paid for certifying animals sold in the Temple and so now had a vested financial interest in these pre-certified animals — possessions — and enforced their growing monopoly — power — by making it a real hassle to bring outside animals to the Temple. They set out to provide a useful service but were then corrupted by the pursuit of power and possessions.
These last few decades Jesus has been cleansing his Church of those morally corrupt priests who have abused their position of power to prey on children in their disordered pursuit of what their sick minds regarded as pleasure — two of the Pernicious Ps.
We’ve also been scandalized by the blindness of bishops who were more concerned about protecting the power, possessions and prestige of the Church [three of the Pernicious Ps] than they were about protecting children.
What makes this even sadder is that most entered the ministry with good intentions, to provide a valuable service to God and neighbor. In any event, we have had to put in place procedures to hopefully prevent this from ever happening again. The Church should always be a place free of corruption of any sort — just like the Temple should have been in Jesus’ time.
What was true in the Temple 2,000 years ago is true also in our own personal lives and in the challenges we face as a nation. We are each Temples of the Holy Spirit; our families are the Domestic Church and our country is a Nation under God, yet we remain subject to the same pitfalls as anyone else.
You have to be blind not to see how money has corrupted our political system — the discussion regarding gun control would be very different if the NRA were not using its money to buy influence in Congress and in our state legislatures. We’re not talking hunting rifles here or even a weapon for personal protection — which, by the way, will make you far more likely to end up killed than if you had no weapon in your house, suicide, anger spun out of control, whatever, but that is a something about which we could argue.
But does anyone really believe that there is any reason why a civilian would need to possess assault weapons? If it were not for the corrupting influence of NRA money our politicians should have been able to put needed restrictions on gun purchases long ago. But ambitious politicians have sold their soul to the NRA and innocent children are now paying the price, most recently in Parkland, Fla.
For that reason I would like to encourage you to participate in the March for Our Lives against gun violence to take place in Little Rock on Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting at the intersection of West Capitol and Pulaski streets, and then walking to the state capitol building. This is a pro-life issue, every bit as much as abortion and euthanasia and the death penalty.
This is just one topic, but a very important issue indeed. Lent is a time for us to invite Jesus to rid us, our families, our nation and our world of the same four Pernicious Ps that tempted even him those 40 days in the desert — the disordered pursuit of power, possessions, pleasure and/or prestige.
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