Friday, April 29, 2011

"Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward."

This Sunday we read from Acts 2:44-45 where it says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”   Acts 4:32-35 repeats this theme, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common...  There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”  Obviously the first Christians were very serious about sharing material wealth to ensure people’s needs were met.

Also this Sunday, the deceased Pope John Paul II will be beatified.  Though I have not seen estimates for the full cost of his beatification, the City of Rome estimates its costs will exceed $5 Million and the Diocese of Rome estimates its costs will exceed $2M to erect stages and megatrons, and cover security costs among other things.  The Diocese of Rome will fund all this via donations from the faithful.

The early Christians entrusted their worldly possessions to the apostles for distribution to the poor.  Yet, on the same weekend we read about this example of selfless giving, the present-day apostles take money from the faithful to glorify a fellow apostle.  With so many needy people in the world, can the apostles justify this?  Why will the faithful pay it?  If the apostles do not use our donations to meet people’s needs, should we circumvent their coffers and give directly to those in need?

I especially question the beatification’s vulgar misuse of funds because according to Catholic doctrine, the communion of saints includes the faithful on earth, those in purgatory and those in heaven.  Therefore, if one believes that John Paul II was a believer, he’s already a saint and has been since his baptism.    Thus, the whole spectacle around beatification is a multi-million dollar expenditure celebrating the blatantly obvious. 

Vatican officials have expressed concern that England’s Royal Wedding this weekend might overshadow John Paul II’s beatification.  For example, Fr. Caesar Atuire, chief executive of Vatican pilgrims' organization Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi said, "I have indeed noticed that the wedding is drawing a lot of attention," … "I wish these two young people all the best in life …  but the events are on two different levels.”

I actually see some similarities between the two events.  The merchandising of memorabilia is rampant for both.  For example one can purchase a bobble-head to commemorate either event.

Yet I agree that the events are on two different levels.  A large part of the Royal Wedding’s expenses are being paid by the bride’s and groom’s families.  The bride and groom ask that, in lieu of gifts, donations be made to a charity that helps underprivileged children, families of military personnel, and nature conservation.  The groom does not expect his wife to "obey" him but treats her in dignity as an equal.  Furthermore, the newlywed couple are an imitation of Christ’s abiding commitment to his church.  If they are so blessed, they will bring forth children from their union.

The beatification of John Paul II asks that people donate money, not for the poor, but for the glorification of a deceased apostle.  John Paul II married the church and believed that he best represented Christ on earth.  He also dehumanized women by insisting they are less Christ-like than any man on earth, most especially clergy.  To many, this is scandalous arrogance.  No children emerged from this union.  However, by his active enablement, clergy abused thousands of other people’s children.

I prefer my children follow God's authentic call rather than walk in anyone else's footsteps.  However, if I had to choose one of this weekend's featured celebrities for my daughters to emulate, it certainly would not be an unmarried man who thinks they are inferior humans to him and child molesters he enabled. 

Perhaps this weekend is a good time to reflect upon MT 6:1-5 as megatrons broadcast events from the Vatican, “… take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father … When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

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