Recent events have brought to mind a song called “Save the People” from the musical Godspell. The context is about how Jesus came to save God’s people from both an oppressive secular state and compromised religious leaders.
Shall crime bring crime forever?
Strength aiding still the strong?
Is it thy will, O Father
That men still toil
That song reflects a particular an era (1973), but the theme applies to our time. In fact, an Epistle reading at Mass this week shows exactly how.
Our daily Mass reading is a rebuke to the Church
Paul rebukes the people because brother is taking brother to court. He says,
Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you.
Paul then asks, rhetorically, if there are no righteous people to judge among God’s people–because, of course, justice should now reign among the people of God. Then he describes typical characteristics of the “unrighteous” judges outside the Church:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
How full-circle we’ve come that such characteristics are now sewn into the hierarchy of the Church because Church leaders have failed to judge among their own. It’s worse than what St. Paul saw among the Corinthians.
An insightful parishioner said that this is akin to the Babylonian exile: God’s people in the Old Testament failed to clean up their own house, so God used rulers outside the people of God to judge them instead.
But there’s good news
God never leaves us without hope. When the people went into exile, they lost their central authority, so instead they developed local networks so that their identity as Jews could be better expressed in their homes. God’s strengthened his people in the midst of their trial.
God will do the same for us.
We’ll reinforce this at our parish meeting this coming Sunday. Everything I’ll say after Mass was planned long before the crisis broke out–that is, how God has given us a vision to more fully embody the local Church. So we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing, and we’ll just use this crisis to fuel our imperative to leave an enduring witness as the people of God.
Here’s how that Godspell song continues, by the way:
Oh, no, say thy mountains
No, say thy skies.
Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise
And songs be heard instead of sighs
God save the people!