Today’s Gospel passage tells of many who return to their former way of life rather than follow Jesus. How sad to hear these words. We are all too familiar with people who have turned away from Jesus, abandoned their practice of the faith and live a life without Him.
You have likely heard of recent reports of sexual abuse in our Church; Cardinal McCarrick resigned after allegations of abuse of seminarians and young priests and this week we learned the results of a Grand Jury investigation in Pennsylvania which detailed decades of abuse by priests and deacons in that state. It is hard to understand how this could have gone on for so long. It is also very disturbing that such evil has happened within the Church, the very establishment Jesus brought forth! Much of what has recently come out happened long ago, but that doesn’t make it easier to acknowledge. These are examples of people walking away from Jesus. Though they worked within the Church, those who abused innocent young people were certainly not walking in the footsteps of Jesus, not following His teaching. People rightly expect a higher standard of conduct from the clergy. Unfortunately, the events of recent days have once again darkened the image of the Catholic Church and the clergy. It is extremely difficult to build trust once it has been violated, yet that is our job that lies ahead.
This job of building trust in a shaken Church will not be an easy one. But it is vital, because there is no other Church that offers the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. These wonderful blessings are what make us different from our other brothers and sisters in Christ. These sacraments bring Jesus to each of us; Jesus who touches each of us and nourishes us.
As we contemplate how we will react to these scandals I ask you to pray hard. Pray for yourself to continue to be involved in this wounded Church. Pray for the bishops, priests, and deacons who serve the Church. It may be difficult to include them in your prayers despite what we know has happened, but I beg you to do so. We must remember that each of us is a sinner and these men are no different. Pray that those who have abused others are removed from Church ministry so those remaining may minister with love. Pray for the many victims of abuse. They have lived with this hurt for too long! Pray for all who have decided not to follow Jesus any longer.
There is hope, even in these dark times. Our hope is based on what Jesus taught. We have hope in eternal life with God. So, don’t give up on the Church or on Jesus!