Can the Priest involve himself in Social Affairs? After all, they say that Religion and politics should not mix.
I am a Christian, a catholic Priest, and this my post is directed More at Christians, though I believe that Everybody will profit by what I present here. Before speaking of the Christian Priest, let me give some Random examples, particularly from Other Religions.
Enough of Hindu Sadhus are in politics today. After all, Real politics need not be an enjoyment of the world. We see many Muslim religious leaders as heads of State in the world. And Buddhist monks, in particular, by their Immolation, etc, have been involved in the Social lives of their People.
Let me come to Christianity. Years ago, when I was in Bangalore, in one of the Franciscan monasteries, I saw the words on a plaque on the wall: “God So Loved the World, THAT HE GOT INVOLVED!” A Bold paraphrase of John 3.16. But is it not the Truth? After all, Involvement does not mean debauchery!
The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard My People Cry.” Exodus 3.7. He hears, and He Acts. That is being One with the Lives of the People. It was a Political involvement, where the ruler is interested in keeping a Whole people as Free or Cheap Labour on the one side, and their Freedom on the other.
In the picture above, We see a couple of Indian Shepherds. Their sheep are carrying their special colours for easy identification in case other herds are close by! An adult animal can be sold for about rs. 5,000 or more today. If We think these People are Rich, We shall have to correct Ourselves. Just look at their clothes and the thickness of their arms.
For a Person like this, the Loss of a Single Goat or Sheep can be Costly. Christ knows this. That is why they were given the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Matthew 18:12-14. As Many of them were Shepherds, the Jews knew the Value of Each Single animal.
A Small bit of Jewelry in the form of a golden coin would be something Very Big for Poor Women. Christ knows this, and Uses the Loss of a Gold coin as an Example.
Before we come to more of the Teachings of Christ, let us remind Ourselves of the Leaders of Jewish society of that time. Though the romans were ruling Israel then, as far as the Jews were concerned, they had their Sanhedrin, their priests, the pharisees, the sadducees, and the scribes.
It would indeed be too complicated to speak in detail about each of those mentioned above. The priests did not have much of a voice; but the high priest(s) made up for that! They were in the forefront in calling for the death of Jesus. The pharisees had set out to live the ‘law’ in its fullness, and had become quite a vociferous and influential group. All these groups were political in effect if not in name. Although a religious party, the sadducees were more important as a political force. The scribes used to make copies of their Holy Books, and thus had become experts in it, knowing much of their law. Hence they were consulted.
It is insisted that the Sanhedrin, their religious council, looked after things religious. But the whole life of a Jew was governed by religion! What he/she could or could not do, what and how much they had to offer, how far they could travel on a sabbath… were all decreed. And all the groups I have mentioned above had a say in it.
Time and again Jesus is shown as condemning these religious leaders, who were, in effect, those to whom the People listened. We find whole chapters and more allotted to this subject.
Many of the Elderly in Society were not taken care of. They had a ‘quaint’ law in support of it. They could offer what might have been needed for the care of their Parents, etc, to the Temple, and this practice was called ‘Qurban,’ meaning ‘Offered’. By this, the offerer did not have to look after his Parents, got a good name as having made an ‘offering,’ and at the same time could enjoy the products himself. Jesus Expressly Spoke against this. Matthew 15:3-6.
These teachers of the law and the pharisees would offer even a tenth part of the smallest earnings. For instance, the crop from the smallest sized vegetable and spice garden. When the Common People neglected to do this, these so-called ‘leaders’ not only criticized them, by looked down upon the People. Jesus Notices all these things, and Speaks against these religious leaders. Matthew 23:23.
The ‘priestly class’ would not help somebody even if they were wounded, and fallen by the road side. The very mention of this ‘class’ in the negative role in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) shows that Jesus is at least indirectly castigating them.
Jesus Healed! He told His Disciples to continue this Ministry.
The Jews had it that they should love their Neighbours and hate their enemies. Matthew 5:43. In this had sprung the question as to Who All were to be considered Neighbours. And Christ says that Each and Everybody is a Neighbour, to be Loved, to be Cherished and Helped as necessary.
It is not as if these pharisees, etc, were not praying enough. Oh, they were doing that all right, doing it even at street corners! But Christ castigates all these because they are not ‘Concerned about the People’.
John the baptist was killed because he told the ruler that he was wrong.
Paul finds out that somebody is living with his step mother. And Paul Publicly Condemns it. 1 Corinthians 5.
There is a question of Sharing of Property. Ananias and Sapphira err in this. Peter takes them to task, and that too, Very Drastically Indeed. Acts 5:1-11.
All the Above are Examples of How the Lord Himself is Constantly Concerned for His People. And How the Leaders of the Early Church Lived and Behaved in the Same Way.
The last three years of Jesus’ Public Life were not one of Dry Preaching. Jesus was concerned about the Complete Well Being of the People, Body, Mind and Soul. If the Priest does not Emulate the Lord in this, he fails.
If a Priest were to seek public office, that would hinder him from spending time in Announcing the Word of the Lord, as to What is Right and What Wrong. As such, a Priest has to Avoid public office. But he Can, and he Should, Raise his Voice, Loudly Indeed, where the Well Being of the People of God is concerned.
You cannot be Holier than the Lord.