Fr Gene's homily in light of the Abuse Revelations

Aug 19, 2018

Homily for August 20th, 2018


Each year many parishes sponsor a summertime religious education program known as Vacation Bible School.  It’s usually a two-week program, and each year has a different theme.  One year, it was EXPLORING.  Another it was TRAVELLING to find Jesus.  This year the theme of Vacation Bible School for kids is SHIPWRECKED: Rescued by Jesus! Shipwrecked…to be honest I’ve been feeling SHIPWRECKED for the last couple of weeks. Maybe you’ve been feeling the same. 

I’m almost reluctant to pick up the paper or turn on the news or go online for fear I’ll find that the ship of the Church has run aground, has sunk a little lower than the day, the month, the years before. It is a Truly. Sinking. Feeling. 

You know, if we’d been attacked by pirates, the losses might not be so hard to take. But the damage done comes not at the hand of outsiders but from a mutiny below decks by some of the ship’s own crew. And that makes the saga even more difficult, more impossible to fathom, much less to accept. 

A sinking feeling, yes, but in fact, the ship of the Church has not run aground and it certainly hasn’t sunk.  She may be stalled in the doldrums of abuse, shame and anger but life aboard largely continues apace. And by that I do not mean “business as usual.”  We can never again be satisfied, as we have been in the past, with “business as usual” in the face of such grievous sin and its horrific damage to individuals, to their families and to the whole faith community.

Like Jesus, whose Body we are, the Church (that’s us) is called to be a wounded healer. We need only look at the Cross to understand that: Jesus, the wounded healer. Even when deeply wounded, the Church is not excused from serving others. 

  • So, in spite of our hurt, our shame and our anger we gather together today to celebrate the Eucharist. 
  • I don’t know yet what funerals we’ll soon celebrate and which grieving families Saint Anselm Parish will serve in the weeks ahead of us - I only know they’ll be coming. 
  • Nor does our parish staff know who will email, call or come by the office every day looking for help, looking for answers, looking for counsel. 
  • Hundreds of Catholic military chaplains are serving our troops at home and overseas, often in harm’s way. 
  • Catholic hospitals all over the United States will treat the sick, deliver newborn children and perform procedures and surgeries to save lives. 
  • This September some 1.8 million children will go back to school in the classrooms of 6,300 Catholic elementary and high schools while over 720,000 students in this country will be enrolled at Catholic universities and colleges. 
  • Catholic Charities USA will continue to serve millions of people, around the world, regardless of their faith, through affordable housing, immigrant and refugee outreach, disaster relief and many other services too many to list here. 
  • In our own parish, Family Promise will still find a home for the homeless, we will continue to provide a place of safety and security and hospitality. 

The ship of faith may be taking on water but it has not run aground, much less sunk. Still, there is much serious work yet to be done to insure that the tragedy of abuse be stopped as far as is humanly possible. The Bishop has sent a message to parishes and asked that it be read at all Masses this weekend. I will do that at the end of Mass today and copies of that message will be on the parish website. 

I know that some may be thinking of leaving the ship of the Catholic faith. - in fact, many have left over the past 16 years. But you are still here and I urge to stay on board. When we uncover problems in the house we live in, even serious structural problems, we take responsibility for repairing them, even if we weren’t the ones who built the house. 

The Church is the Body of Christ and you and I are its members.  The Church is NOT the bishops. We are the members of Christ’s Body as surely as our arms and legs, hands and feet, eyes and ears, are members of our own bodies. 

In this time of moral crisis in our own Church we need one another as perhaps we have never needed each other before.

So I plead with you: please, stay on board. 

Every time I hear confessions I am humbled by the faith and contrition of those who come to be reconciled with God and with the Church. And every time I hear confessions I am reminded of my own sins and my own need for God’s mercy. 

As I read and listen to the news these days I think of the ways that I, in my ministry, have not been as faithful to the Lord, the Church and you as I’m called to be. 

I invite you to pray in the same way. Let this time of repentance and purification for the larger Church call each of us to live with greater fidelity to Jesus, to his gospel and to the Church he gave us. 

Sinking feelings?  Yes.  Taking on water?  Yes.   Shipwrecked?  No. 

Jesus is the Captain of our ship of faith and with his grace and help we can and we will continue our ship’s journey under full sail, our sheets filled and powered by the breath of his Holy Spirit. 

So, come, share in the Eucharist, share in the Bread and Cup, in the Body and Blood of Jesus that he remain in us - and we in him.