Fr Patrick McKenna

Some years ago, a visiting priest celebrated the Sunday Mass here in the parish. There were two collections, one for the parish and one for Trocaire. He made the ‘unilateral decision’ to suggest to the congregation that they forget the offertory collection and put the whole lot into Trocaire. The PP. was not well pleased, and I suspect the priest was not invited back for a Sunday Mass.

Jesus himself was not well pleased with those whose interest was simply in making money out of religion. Today, I suspect he would condemn the corrupt financial shenanigans prevalent in our Western church, while at the same time praise those in authority who make the genuine effort reach out to the poor. “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market”.

I believe that Pope Francis makes the effort to do as Christ did. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by many corrupt ‘money changers’ who have corrupted the institutional church. And nearer home, perhaps we need to rethink the purpose of church finance and church property. Sure, we need money for the upkeep of the parish plant and for parish administration, money for positive ways in which we can promote the growth of a faith community in our parish. But what about the residue, the money that’s left over? “We are the Church” and along with Pope Francis, our generosity has to stretch further than our parish boundaries or our diocesan boundaries. We do not have to be a poor church, but we do have to be there for the poor in our local church and the worldwide church.

Why so? I think Jesus gives us the answer when he refers to us as, ‘the Body of Christ’, belonging to one another. St. Paul develops that notion. We belong to the crucified Christ; we share in his sufferings. Ultimately, we can build up the Body of Christ by alleviating the suffering of those who are struggling to cope with life; esp. those who suffer because of corruption, injustice, poverty, persecution. Right now, Pope Francis is in Iraq as an ambassador of peace. He has met with political and religious leaders with this message: “Great powers must not sponsor their own self-interest at the expense of the right of people to live in freedom and dignity”. While meeting Ayatollah Ali Sistani, he urged the Muslim community to a peaceful co-existence with their beleaguered Christian neighbours. That Christian community, decimated by war, is just one example of people sharing in the suffering of Christ. I hope that the Vatican Bank would be there as a source of financial help. The suffering poor belong to us.

All this may be far removed from thinking about our weekly church collection, but not so far removed from the work of Trocaire or the preaching of Jesus who had compassion for those who were being exploited in their place of prayer.