There is something very disconcerting for those of us in religious leadership positions when we read about John the Baptist that scrubby character who called the people not to the synagogues or temple, but out into the wilderness. John was certainly not a presentable figure in elite civil and religious circles, yet it was his honor to announce the Messiah and to baptize him. In some says Jesus is very much like him. Just before he begins his three year ministry he too goes to the wilderness, and when he returns he begins to denounce the hypocritical practices of many of the religious leaders, as he proclaims the Good News>
When I read the Gospel, I am often startled by Jesus’ bluntness and criticism of religious leaders, and of course, it causes a certain discomfort to me, and I suspect many others who are in church leadership. And when I try to dismiss my discomfort as over sensitivity, I am reminded by church history that power often corrupts and makes mistakes. John Paul II knew this well, I think, and that is why he asked forgiveness on behalf of the church in the year 2000.
Lent is a time of discernment for all of us, especially those in religious leadership. Let us pray for one another during this penitential season, and ask the Lord to help us all to live by God’s ways and God’s will.