by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that if our righteousness does not surpass that of the religious authorities, we will not enter the reign of God.
It’s a shocking instruction. He seems to have learned early on that power corrupts, and not just politicians, but professional religious people, too. If professional religious authorities do not break out of the trappings of power, authority, money and cultic privilege, if they do not embody the beatitudes and struggle for justice and peace, they will not enter the reign of God. I think he means not just in the next life, but here and now, in this life, where the reign of God is at hand.
We see this play out everywhere today, where our religious leaders go along with the culture of violence and war and remain silent in the face of war making, nuclear weapons, poverty and violence. They fear rocking the boat, so they do nothing, protect their money, stay close to their benefactors, accept whatever the military tells them and reject the way of the cross. Or if they speak, they only denounce abortion, claiming to be pro-life even though they actively support U.S. war making and nuclear weapons. In doing so, they come across to the faithful as radically pro-death. They remain clueless to the prophetic vocation which Jesus calls us all to live in the Sermon on the Mount.
The exceptions, of course, make the rule, and one great exception was my friend Walter Sullivan, bishop of Richmond, Va., and former president of Pax Christi USA who died Dec. 11.…