I’ve been trying to avoid talking about the recent horrors in the Church. Honest, I have. I haven’t really gone on Facebook to decry the abuses of children, seminarians, and the legal system perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests, bishops, and even, it seems, the Pope. I have read the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania, every blood-curdling page. I have read the horrors of children sodomized with crucifixes, parents who were silenced. I’ve read about our Church who rejected the broken and appeased itself instead. I’ve read the myriad blog posts, with all the voices rising to a crescendo of rage. Some is the heartbroken rage of the devout, others the gloating self-righteous fury of those who hate the Church, including some who hate it from within. I have read and I have cried and I have been furious, and I have mourned with the millions of Catholics who have done the same.
I am not here to do it again.
See, all these stories are awful, but I don’t think the internet needs another angry voice right now. I know that, of the four hundred people or so who will see this blog post, only about sixty will really read it (hi, dad) and so I am not here to post yet another emotional rant that will get thousands of views, a few death threats, and a “featured blog of the day” post from Bad Catholic. I’m here to tell you sixty or so that healing is possible, and healing is paramount, and to hope that you sixty will help me.
I’ll admit that, til a few days ago, I felt lost in the Church. I don’t know how we could have let such evil happen while we slept. But at Mass, as the Third Order Regular priest (oh, they give me such hope!) led us in the words taken from Matthew 8:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
The priest at Mass called us to come and worship the Lamb of God, to behold the beauty of His sacrifice on the cross and the altar. And we responded with the same words as the Centurion: Oh Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under our roof. But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed. And as I saw the priest consume the Eucharist, my faith clicked back into place.
God alone has the power to heal us. No amount of bloggers or judges or lawyers can heal the rotting cancer of sin in the human soul. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we need to accept that and ask for the grace of healing for our Church. I think that this is the key lesson that the Centurion can teach us today. The time that God condescended to come into was a culture and time of barbarity, but one not so very different from our own. That Centurion was part of the oppressive and genocidal government that had taken over Israel and was bleeding her people dry. The Centurion was part of the problem, as much as any of us are part of the currently problematic Catholic Church. But he had the humility to ask God to heal his friend, something many people within Jesus’ own circle would have had trouble doing. Even more importantly, the Centurion didn’t just pray, he also acted. He went to find Jesus, a long way off, and asked himself instead of sending a servant to do it. In the same way, our humility and reliance on God will be shown by our willingness to take action to be healed. His action of trust was met with God’s action of healing, a gift whose true value he recognized.
He recognized, most importantly, that he was not worthy of God’s favor. We are nowhere near worthy that Christ should come under the roofs of our churches, into the hands of evil priests, the mouths of enabling bishops. We aren’t worthy that He should enter into our disgusting, painful, sinful humanity. Our Church is a broken house, with a filthy floor, cracked windows, and rotting floorboards. But it is here that we behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We are no different than the Rome-controlled Israel of 2,000 years ago. We like to think that it’s the current year and we should be better than our fallen nature, but we can’t be. Human nature suffers the eternal wound of sin, the sin that took what was never ours to take and condemned us to an eternity of taking from others and taking from God. But God came anyway to die for us, and He comes again every single day, the act of redemption played out over and over again in the confessional and the on the altar, entering our unworthiness and our filth and restoring us. He gives Himself to us, even knowing what we would take from Him, because that’s the only way to fix us. By His death, on His word, we can be healed.
My faith in the Church is shaken, but solid, because this is the only institution that could possibly come back from a scandal of this magnitude solely because of the Eucharist. Lawyers and bishops and multi-million dollar payouts won’t save us now. Humility and the Eucharist alone can save us, and that starts with you, sixty readers who have nothing better to do today. Be humble. Make reparation for sin. Help victims. And go to Mass. Beg God to heal us. He can. He will. We just need to trust. The fate of our Church depends on it.
Pace e bene!