Community life means giving and taking. But some members give more, others less. That’s fine, depending on each person’s abilities. It becomes problematic when certain people have to give more all the time. The sociologist Lewis A. Coser speaks of “greedy organizations.” Such organizations depend on “sucking” their employees, their strength and energy. They are greedy; they never get enough.
Sometimes the Church is in danger of being a greedy organization. This is a real temptation, because Christian spirituality is based on self-giving. How could you complain about giving too much when your model is Christ, who gave himself completely? This is a trap.
Here is the great difference: our High Priest Jesus Christ was able and willing to give Himself, even in great pain and sorrow, because He was God. We Christians are called to give ourselves freely; but we are not called to be sucked dry; either by other individual Christians or systematically in a community. The abuse crisis of the Church originates here: it does not begin with sexual abuse. It does not even begin with the abuse of power, which is the root of all sexual abuse. It begins with the exploitation of people, with the “using of people,” in everyday life.
What is the way out? To correct those who exploit. To protect those who have too much on their shoulders. To accept the reality and the limits of the community.
Let’s look at the problem from another angle. Benedictine monks in an African monastery hung a sieve in one of their common rooms. The story they tell about this sieve goes like this: If each member of the community holds a hole shut with one of his fingers, even water can be kept in a sieve. But if one – or even some – pull back their fingers, the water – that is, the power of the community – gradually runs out, even if the others keep their holes closed. For the African monks, this is a symbol of solidarity within a community. The Christian community could be a group of people trying to “keep the water in the sieve”. It is a community task. The finger of each individual is needed.
Lord, strengthen our communities. Grant that we may be of one heart and soul. Let us care for one another. Grant that no one will be overwhelmed. Grant that we have the courage to address problems. Let us set an example of how to live together in love and respect. And lead us all together to eternal life.