Pray With the Pope: June 2019
Prayer Intention for June: Evangelisation: That priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves actively to a solidarity with those who are most poor.
The Gospel is part of the “gift economy”, that alternative to the profit economy in which we get things for free.
The “gift economy” is normally associated with traditional societies where people give each other free gifts in order to spread wealth around the community, maintain equality and encourage the virtue of generosity.
The ‘gift economy’ also reminds us that in the final analysis, everything that we receive in life is a gift of God mediated through nature. The “gift economy” still exists in often unnoticed ways in the modern world in things like blood donation, freeware and freecycling.
There is also a vast amount of fundraising that goes on for NGOs and other humanitarian organisations. Little of this is recorded in our GDP and yet it is very significant and for some people means the difference between life and death.
The Gospel ought to stand out in the ‘gift economy’. It ought to be noticed. When people meet the bringer of the Gospel, they should be able immediately to recognise the presence of the Lord who charged precisely nothing for his preaching and healing, who had “nowhere to lay his head” and who relied on the free gifts of others for his support.
The hearers of the Gospel understand that the “labourer is worthy of his hire” and that the minister of the Gospel cannot live on air, but if there is the least hint of entrepreneurship in the ministry, they are sure to be scandalised.
Modesty and Humility
If the Gospel is made into a marketable product, a commodity to be bought and sold, it ceases to be the Gospel.
Hence the need for that “modesty and humility” of life among the clergy for which the Pope asks us to pray. We often fall short of course. There is the story of the priest who drove a Mercedes. When his fellow priests pulled his leg about his luxury vehicle, he replied that he often had to take the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and he reasoned that “nothing is too good for the Lord”!
A smart reply, but the obvious riposte would be to point out that the best transport the Lord could muster was a donkey. The rest of the time he went about on foot. No horses or chariots for him, the equivalents in his day of the Mercedes or the BMW.
Members of religious orders might hear this tale with a touch of smugness since “holy poverty” would probably usually ensure that a religious would drive something a little more modest. But many a diocesan priest who has to struggle to make ends meet has repeated the jibe that “religious take a vow of poverty but the diocesan clergy live it”.
Gospel Should be Offered Free
Indeed, we religious can become quite comfortable thanks to the hidden subsidies of common life and we can certainly feel less of a sense of responsibility around the issue of money when we know that there is a Father or Sister Moneybags (the Bursar) looking after such mundane matters.
The Gospel should be offered for free, but the labourer needs to be supported. I like the picture of St Paul using his skill and manual labour as a tentmaker to subsidise his work as an evangelist. Many of our permanent deacons do this “tent-making ministry” all the time, supporting themselves out of their own labour.
Perhaps more priests should live like St Paul and do appropriate paying jobs, such as teaching or counselling, to support them in their ministry.