’s Mark Kurowski reflects on sex abuse scandal and how the Church in Ireland reportedly has given us a road map to avoid James and John.  What does it mean to lead and why would ordination to the diaconate be a key part of the solution?.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Mark 10:17-30. #GreatPreaching, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/21/2012The 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:35-45.  When I was a campus minister, we had recently moved our Chapel from the basement of the Student Center, which was symbolically and functionally not what we would have liked, so we moved our Chapel to one of the nicest buildings on Campus, Kindlon Hall, where the space, the former rare book and archive section of where the Library was, is actually a Chapel shaped place that will serve us well until the day that a free standing chapel is built, we hope someday.  It is beautiful and I appreciate the lovely windowed wall  that faces south over the lovely tree line of DuPage county in my office.  It could all be very intoxicating.  It could cause us in the ministry office to think that being in a very nice office on a nice prominent location in the University is what it means to be in ministry, but we would be wrong.  The word “minister” means to supply or to bring something to someone to give them relief.  Bringing someone a cold cup of water on a hot day is to minister.  To put a bandage on a wound is to minister, which is why the medical field, in particular nursing, came from religious people and religious life.  The whole of loving neighbor is to do something to bring relief.  Earlier this year, I spoke about how St. James admonishes in very strong terms how we ought not wish people to be warm and well without lifting a finger to help find shelter and food for those who are without.  It is critical that priests are first ordained deacons.  Deacons are given the Spiritual gift of having a heart and doing service for the poor.  As far as I know, priesthood does not mean that the diaconate to which priests were ordained, has left them.  That qualities of the diaconate has not left them because it is an indelible mark on their soul.  It changes them, as we say, “ontologically,” with permanence.  This gift of being ordained first a deacon and then a priest, I think, is crucial.  The ministry of rule, teach and sanctify, needs to be done with complete understanding of the preferential option for the poor that the diaconate gives.  So, the context of leadership is Baptism, or being claimed by God to live a holy life, that is augmented by a vocation to serve the poor and outcast which then sets the table for a leader who rules with holiness of heart, mind and an objective to always remember the poor and outcast.  To be a priest, deacon, or bishop is to be in service, to give of the self, to empty out ourselves to bring a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty while at the same time making sure the linens are properly arranged on the altar for the Eucharist.  One time, as I was transitioning from being in the formation to the priesthood to leadership as a lay person, I was told by a man, “the role of the supervisor is to make sure that everyone has what they need to achieve the objective.”  Once again, there it is, service from the top.  It is particularly gauling when those who are called to serve, even give up their lives, are focused on the benefits of their position instead of the benefits they can bring to the service provided by the position.  That is what we see James and John doing here.  Do they love the Lord or do they just want to sit at his right and left at the coming of his kingship?  Do they want to alleviate the suffering of the poor, the outcast, the psychologically imprisoned, the emotionally destroyed or the little ones without hope, or do they want to sit in the high spot to be seen by all?  Diarmuid Martin is a man who understands this concept of servant leadership and leading people to goodness.  The Archbishop of Dublin was featured on a March 4, 2012 60 Minutes episode that recounted the painful truth of the “overwhelming evidence that the Church hierarchy was not only aware of the sexual abuse, but did little about it.”  The Archbishop of Dublin has spent time listening to the victims of the abuse. He has opened up his files to the police. He has instituted reforms. He did something that the Church in Ireland has never done,  he held a service of atonement where he prostrated himself before the altar.  Then, he knelt down before the victims and washed their feet.  What is striking in this story from 60 Minutes, is that the Archbishop’s laying down of his high ranking to do what we all greatly desire our bishops to do, he becomes perfect in our eyes.  We, as lay people, love him because of his self emptying.  He becomes more like Jesus in his bold humility.  His service is what makes him worth following.  His willingness to get a cup of cold water for a child is what makes him great in our eyes.  It is precisely when he removes the miter, puts down the crozier, takes off the chasuble, removes the stole and puts on an apron and washes the feet of the children, that we see the truthfulness of the chasuble, crozier, and miter.  On top of that, the supreme irony of the whole situation is encapsulated in why one parish church council member says in the story that the former hierarchy tried to cover up the scandal: “They cover it up because the priests were supposed to be perfect.”  That is what she said.  No, James!  No, John!  It is not in hiding our imperfections and aspiring to the seat at the right hand or the view from the fourth floor window that makes us great or perfect!  No!  It is in laying down all that we could do and doing what we don’t have to do that the service of Jesus Christ comes out.  When we deny the power of the world and serve those who are forgotten and even those who despise us, that is when we are most like Christ.  How is it that we have allowed ourselves to be trapped by the trappings of whatever power we have?  How is it that we can lay down the “privileges of our position” and serve others in bold humility that will touch lives and change hearts?  Make your plan for this week on ways that you can clean the kitchen at work when it is not your job, or open a door or some doors for someone whose job is considered less than yours.    What is your plan to deny the privilege and pick up the cross?  Amen?  Amen. This audio is under the copyright of and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of, LLC., 2012.