Genesis 46: 1-7, 28-30
Jesus sent us as sheep into the midst of wolves, but he didn’t specify that sometimes those wolves are not predators outside our borders. Sometimes they are in our very midst – people we trust, people with whom we live or work, or members of our own faith community.
A friend of mine became disillusioned working in a parish. He contends that in the business world, everyone acknowledges ulterior motives like status, money, and self-promotion beneath most interactions. In a parish, everyone claims selfless service of God. Yet he witnessed backstabbing and power grabs that were far more vicious and damaging than those you find in a corporate office. As he told his story to others, he found that his parish was not unusual.
Perhaps we should expect as much, based on the story of Joseph’s brothers, and knowing that Jesus himself was betrayed by one of his closest associates. Unfortunately, we are a very human church, filled with the same dysfunctions, self-righteousness, and weaknesses as the world in which we live. Yet it always comes as a shock. We expect more of our church, our parishes, and ourselves. We know we are called to something better, to greater integrity, more tolerance, increased patience, and transparent justice.
So how good a model am I? When I disagree with the pastor, do I have the courage to speak with him face-to-face rather than write anonymous letters or talk behind his back? How often do I hold grudges against members of my family or my faith community rather than engage in the difficult process of forgiveness? By what means do I justify saying negative things about another that I would not repeat to that person’s face? When have I tried to "cover" for myself, telling white lies, deflecting criticism, or engaging in small acts of deception in order to appear blameless despite my complicity? When have I harshly judged another without taking time to understand their position and find common ground? In what ways have I convinced myself that I am surely a sheep, despite the wolfish fangs that sometimes show?
It is sometimes discouraging to read the news about our church. I also sometimes get discouraged by my own behavior and all the ways I do not yet reflect the face of Christ to the world. My prayer is that all of us may continue forward on the path of discipleship, knowing we will encounter wolves from within and without, including deep in our own hearts, yet trusting that the Spirit of the living God is with us and will ultimately have the final word.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website at http://www.amyflorian.com/.