It is October 23 and the reading for today is a good one. To top that off the USCCB has offered a video reflection for the readings this day. Most of the time the reflections do not meet my expectations, but every once in a while I find one that inspires me. As I listened to this reflection I had high hopes.
“Listen to those words again of Jesus to Peter ‘Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?'”
“The priest is to be a steward. One who acts on behalf of the Master, to do what? To distribute the food allowance at the proper time. In this life the food allowance is the Holy Eucharist, and we priests are entrusted with the stewardship of bringing the Eucharist to all Christ’s servants until He comes again.”
– Reverend Daniel Merz (Secretariat of Divine Worship)
When I heard this, surfers, I was more than a little disappointed. I was down-right angry. I expect a lot more from Father Merz. I know you are thinking I am perhaps asking too much from a 3 minute video, but you and I deserve better. To quote that same Gospel reading “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” Father Merz is entrusted with the providing leadership in liturgical formation and sacramental catechesis. He dropped the ball by spinning the Gospel message to serve his own narrow focused ends. Let me explain.
This portion of the Gospel of Luke is part of a larger section (Luke 12:1-59) that deals with the Disciples facing external and internal opposition to their ministry. This reading is actually related to the Disciples having to deal with problems from selfish church officials. The message of the parable is a warning to those who serve the community that they should not be creating problems but instead be faithful to the community they serve.
I have to admit that the food allowance may be more than just actual food. We count on our church leaders today to feed more than our physical bodies. Eucharist may be one of the aspects of our modern day distribution of food allowance, but not the entirety, as expressed by Fr. Merz. If the desire of the reflection was to spin the responsibilities of modern day priests to only serve the Eucharist, mission accomplished. I will go on record and say that we expect more.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September 1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question “cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5). It also makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience: “Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors … have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching”
– Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (October 23, 2013)
Is it a coincidence that on the same day Fr. Merz was glowingly speaking about stewardship and bringing the Eucharist to all Christ’s servants – Archbishop Muller was telling priests to deny Eucharist to divorced and remarried Catholics?
So, which is it? Eucharist for all, or only a select few? Perhaps Archbishop Muller had better reread the Gospel of Luke in chapter 12 to realize the parable is a warning about selfish church officials who take on some characteristics of the fool. The Catholic faith community deserves better than to be denied Eucharist because of divorce and remarriage. The Gospel writers of Luke put the words directly in Jesus’ mouth; “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?”