Fr. Paul and myself both addressed the scandal facing our Church with the clergy sex abuse crisis. Here is my homily on the matter, incorporated with the readings for the 20th Sunday in ordinary time.
As a part of my seminary education, I spent two months working as a Chaplin in a Hospital. One of the most memorable experiences I had in that Hospital was getting a call about a woman who had just come into the ER with a mass on her brain. I went in to visit with her and her husband to pray with them and to be with them in their difficult time. I remember being moved to pray for them, to offer a rosary when I got home from work. The next day I went back to visit this couple, and it was clear they were still in distress about the news they received, but they were starting to get better. Being as compassionate as I could I asked the Husband how he was doing, he told me not to good and then he went over to embrace his wife. It was a powerful moment for all of us involved. Their world was just shattered, the diagnosis she got was likely a terminal one. However, they went back to the love they had for each other to find comfort.
If you have watched the news recently, you likely heard about the grand jury report in Pennsylvania. The Diocese last night released a statement from Bishop Muench. My hope and prayer are that all of those who were hurt by those priests may find healing and that we as a Church will allow the Holy Spirit to purify us.
I’m sorry for how those in positions of trust and leadership hurt us. The abuse and cover-up doesn’t touch only those directly involved but all of us. I’m saddened by what happened, I’m hurt, and I’m angry as well. I’ve heard some of the victims say how much they trusted the priest that abused them. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain for a child to have someone they trust to hurt them in that way. Our Lord is deeply saddened by what has happened. Our Lord has the most profound love and care for the most vulnerable the smallest in our midst’s. I believe our Lord is weeping over these horrific acts.
As a Church, we can look to the example of Pope Francis from a couple of years ago. He said: I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. Sin is a part of our Church; we fall short of what our Lord calls us to do. We as a Church are called by God to bring our sin before him and allow his loving gaze to transform us.
During this time, I think back to that couple that I met in the Hospital, while they are different situations I believe we can learn how they grasped onto the love that they had for each other. This weekend we hear about Jesus giving us his flesh and his blood. Jesus wants to breathe life into the Church, he genuinely cares and provides for his Church through the Eucharist. As I grapple with this scandal, I want to run to Jesus, draw closer to him especially in the Eucharist, because that is where my strength lies.
What the readings tell us is that Jesus will always provide for us, he will give an abundance of grace for us. From the book of Proverbs, we hear that Wisdom places a meal in front of us, choice food, and choice wines. This reading from proverbs foreshadows not only the heavenly banquet our Lord will set before us but the feast he provides for us in the Eucharist. It is God who gives life to the Church; it is Christ who sustains the Church, who purifies the Church. Jesus has chosen the Eucharist to bring about his Church here on earth. Not only do we gather as a community to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, but the Eucharist unites all of us to Jesus in our own lives.
The life our Lord gives us through the Eucharist is where we can find hope and comfort in the midst of this report. Many priests, bishops, religious sisters and brothers, and many faithful Catholics bless our Church and strengthen it. However, sin still exists in the Church and leaders of the Church who have done horrific things. In the midsts of this darkness, it is Jesus whom we look to, especially in the Eucharist. It is through the Eucharist that our Lord gives us life and transforms us.
I went back a few more times to visit with that couple, slowly and slowly they were getting better. It wasn’t that the brain tumor went away or that the woman was getting better health-wise. Instead, they began to find comfort in each other. Many difficult times would be ahead for them in their life. They also had family members come to visit, friends and other people to support them. I lost touch with them which is standard in a hospital setting, but I had a feeling that they would make it through that difficult time. We as a Church may be facing a rough road ahead of us. More sins may come to light about our Church. However, we can all run to Jesus no matter how difficult things may get for the Church. He will give us life; he will heal us from our sinful ways. My greatest hope is that we will unite with Jesus in Heaven in his kingdom where no pain, no scandal, no ugliness or evil will exist. I hope we can all remain in this hope and remain in Jesus no matter the valley’s we may face in this life. If we stay close to Jesus, we will always have his life within us, and he will get us through our struggles and valleys.
Finally, I have a simple request for all of us. Please pray for our Church, offer up rosaries, time before the blessed sacrament, even now as we enter into the next part of the Mass, offer to God what you are feeling, your emotions related to this news. Pray especially for those involved in this scandal. If we can draw close to Christ in prayer and offer up our daily prayer for the Church not only will we get through this difficult time but too I believe our Church will grow closer to Christ through our prayers and sacrifices.