21st Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 26, 2018
The past few weeks, the clergy abuse scandal has been very much in the news, due to the release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania in the USA. I struggled with whether I should speak on this issue, unfortunately this scandal is not something new for us. For some 20 years we have been made aware of this failure in the church and the damage done. But, a number of you have spoken to me about this, and ultimately we are all united within the church in facing this failure.
So, we all feel the pain, the hurt, and we are all called to continue to make efforts to create a safe environment for everyone in our churches, especially for children. All this in the news, though very difficult to face, is also a reminder to us of the need to be vigilant.
Pope Francis has published a letter to the whole People of God. It is available at the entrance of the church to take home after Mass. Included with it is the statement from the Canadian Bishops Conference. Also the statement of Bishop Crosby is on the bulletin board and available at the Diocese of Hamilton web site.
In our Gospel today, we see a struggle in the early Christian community with the teaching of Jesus about the Eucharist, some disciples are leaving. So, Jesus turns to his apostles and asked them if they will leave too. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Scandal has existed throughout the history of the church, in various forms. Just read the letters of St. Paul to see that. The Church in its human dimension is faced with human sin, with corruption, with immorality. This has been found at every level of the church, from Popes, cardinals, bishops, clergy, the laity.
For this reason the Church is in need of constant reform and renewal. We must always humbly look at ourselves as individual Christians, and as a church, to examine ways we are failing. Like Peter, we ultimately place our trust not in an institution, not in the human dimension of the church. We put our trust in Jesus, the one who has the words of eternal life.
As St. Paul says in our second reading, Christ cares for the Church as for his own body. So, Christ feels the wounds of corruption, of sin, of abuse within the heart of the Church. But, Jesus also wants to bring healing where hurt exists. We do not sit back waiting for Jesus to do something, for Jesus wants to work through us. That healing will only come through us, when we are instruments of Christ’s healing.
In particular, we are to offer gentle care and support to all victims and survivors of abuse both in the church and within society in general. For unfortunately abuse exists in all institutions, including of course in the family.
Today, I am not going to speak about what the Pope needs to do, or the bishops, or what the universal church needs to do. Though the universal church is certainly going to need to continue to undergo a painful self examination, conversion and reform.
Rather I want to focus on you and me, on our parish. What is our response and our call in face of the clergy abuse scandal?
First, be holy in your life. Each of us is to take seriously the call to be holy. To fight against sin, to work for peace and unity. I must start with myself.
Second, we must care for one another. Especially anyone who has been hurt through abuse in any form. We are to create a parish where all feel welcomed and received. A parish where we are all working together. A parish which is like a caring mother.
Institutional and human failure has done great damage to many people. We as Catholics, need to respond with humility and with contrition. As a parish we need to continue to strive to create a parish that is caring, a sacrament of mercy, a place where all we be embraced in gentle care.
Like Peter, all of us do this while staying near to Jesus, who has the words of eternal life.