Date: Sunday, August 11, 2019
It was unsettling! I walked downstairs early in the morning to open the church and noticed in the kitchen a carton of milk on the floor. Who would leave it there? I walked into the parish office. The closet door was open. It began to dawn on me that the rectory had been robbed. My living quarters were just up a flight of stairs, a few steps away. Jesus in our Gospel says: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house to be broken into.” Strangely, Jesus uses this reference to a thief breaking in to warn his disciples to be vigilant for the coming of the Son of Man “at an hour you do not expect.” Early Jewish Christian communities expected Jesus would return to them as the Son of Man in glory as he had promised. This expectation was intense when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army. It was deeply felt at Eucharist when the presider and congregation stood together before the altar facing the East anticipating the Son of Man would appear. Jesus is encouraging his disciples to be vigilant and responsible -- good stewards of the gifts entrusted to them.
We have accepted the delay of Jesus coming in glory as the Son of Man until he returns “at the end” but the Church has also come to appreciate Christ’s presence in the sacraments and in the rhythm of daily life. He promised to be with us always. We need to remind ourselves of his abiding presence especially during difficult and challenging times that shake our confidence. Like now! In the span of one week our nation was rocked by three mass shootings at a Garlic Festival in California, in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and at an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio. We can hear the rapid fire of guns and the screams of people fleeing for their lives. What comes to our lips from the depths of our hearts is the prayer OMG – Oh my God no! We are in prayer and solidarity with these terribly wounded communities. We pray for courage to face and to lessen acts of violence tearing the soul of America.
We are also aware of a crisis shaking the church i.e. clergy abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Beginning this Wednesday (August 14) victim survivors will have an opportunity to pursue their claim in a court of law even if the occurrence was before the statute of limitation. They are seeking admission of the abuse, validation, justice and compensation. “Finding courage to tell one’s story” is part of the process of healing. We have a responsibility to listen to people who have been abused as children or as teens whether it happened in their home, or in the church, or in an organization, or in a public school or in a sports program. We have a responsibility, as the Church has been doing, to provide counselling and healing for victims and to establish safeguards/protocols to protect minors and vulnerable adults.
In a recent letter to priests, Pope Francis writes: “In these years, we have become more attentive to the cry, often silent and suppressed, of our brothers and sisters who were victims of the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience and sexual abuse on the part of ordained ministers. This has been a time of great suffering in the lives of those who experienced such abuse, but also in the lives of their families and of the entire People of God. As you know, we are firmly committed to carrying out the reforms needed to encourage from the outset a culture of pastoral care, so that the culture of abuse will have no room to develop, much less continue. This task is neither quick nor easy: it demands commitment on the part of all. If in the past, omission may itself have been a kind of response, today we desire conversion, transparency, sincerity and solidarity with victims to become our concrete way of moving forward. This in turn will help make us all the more attentive to every form of human suffering.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO PRIESTS ON THE 160th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH
OF THE HOLY CURÉ OF ARS, ST JOHN VIANNEY