Luke 6: 27-38
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” That’s Shakespeare. It really is. It’s from Richard the Third. And it applies to us today in the Church. It really is the winter of our discontent, a long cold winter. We are dealing yet again with the continuing clergy sexual abuse scandal, now focusing on bishop accountability. Pope Francis and the heads of bishops’ conferences worldwide have just concluded the special synod in Rome this morning. It has received tremendous press coverage. I heard one report that there have been more journalists and media in Rome this past week than since the death of Saint John Paul II.
It all began last summer. George Weigel, the great American commentator on the Catholic Church, called it “our summer of horrors.” It is now “the winter of our discontent.” The news of Cardinal McCarrick in July, the 11 page testimony of Archbishop Vigano in August and word of bishops being removed from office down the road in West Virginia and Memphis, all these have shaken, horrified and discontented us.
The scripture verse from today’s gospel that applies is “pray for your enemies.” We have grown accustomed to praying for the victims of abuse. We must pray for the abusers, as well as the bishops who may not have addressed the problem, refused to recognize it or covered up the scandal. It is a very hard thing to pray for those who have hurt us. But we must do it. Why? Because Jesus tells us we must. Praying for those who have hurt us is perhaps the most difficult thing we can do in the spiritual life.
Jesus also tells us not to judge. We can place ourselves in great spiritual peril by judging, by condemning and by gossiping. This gospel is a warning to us all. The men who abused children and adults, were themselves broken, wounded, sick men. Let’s face it: one who is healthy would not do such things. They need healing from The Divine Physician. Of course, we must make sure that they are not placed in positions where they can continue to harm others.
We do as much as we can to ensure the safety of all. We pray for those who need healing on both sides and try to keep ourselves from judging, condemning and gossiping, mindful, too of the ways we use and abuse social media. When we find ourselves falling, we have the sacrament of reconciliation. It still a precept of the church to confess our sins at least once a year; we used to call it “making our Easter duty.” It still applies.
This is a moment of purification for the Church. I believe Jesus is purifying the Church in preparation for his second coming. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said we might have a smaller, purer Church in the future. I may look different from what we now know. We may be at the threshold of that moment. Pope Saint john Paul II foresaw what he called “a second spring” for the Church. From our summer of horrors to the winter of our discontent to a second spring. In other words, we live in hope. Hopefully we are at the threshold of that hope, maybe crossing it (John Paul II). We await the coming second spring. Pray for forgiveness and healing. Treat others as we would wish to be treated and judged. Our job, our spiritual exercise, is to be as holy a people of Saint Andrew Church as we can possibly be. Let us do it. Praise be Jesus Christ. Now and Forever!