9 September 2018
Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.
My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.
Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
“… He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak”
I couldn’t bring myself to go to church this Sunday. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say that I believed in ‘one holy catholic Church’, not with this sickness, these gross abuses of power and the ugly politics around it, that are swirling around the Church right now. God’s house is at war, and this is a plague on all the faithful. If you’re a committed believer, if you have sisters and daughters, if you have young children in your family – you’ll feel something. Betrayal. Frustration. Anger. Despair. Doubt. Of all those emotions, I find Doubt the hardest to work through. Should I stay Catholic? Why am I Catholic in the first place?
I’d like to think that I’m a mature person. I understand there will be a certain amount of politics I’ll have to put up with in any large organization. Some measure of practical worldliness is necessary if I am to function peacefully within the institution that is the Church. But what do I tell my children, when they ask me why I’m still Catholic, with all of the revelations of abuse that have come to light these last few weeks, especially when we were all led to believe that things had turned a corner? What do I tell my young nephew, who will one day read about this and ask me if justice was served, and if not, then why not?
My faith is something I’ve taken as a constant. My father was a converted Catholic and our family followed accordingly. His illness forced upon us a baptism of fire, one we survived because we held on to Christ and the Church. There was safety in God’s house, comfort in the Rosary, healing in prayer. When he passed, we overcame the grief because of our faith. So being Catholic is almost an indissoluble fact. I’ve had to re-examine the basis of that belief this last two weeks. Why am I Catholic? Is my faith because of the comfort I find in God’s house and its traditions or because I have a personal relationship with Christ?
As Catholics, we are taught to follow rules, not to question them. Most chafe against this but those rules provided me a lifeline when I most needed it; when my family most needed it. They gave us constancy when our life was chaos. Mass is built around an orderly set of rules. Catechism is a set of rules. But at the heart of it, being Catholic is not about a blind adherence to rules no matter how comforting we might find them. Our anchor isand should always be Christ, not deference to the Church. Being Catholic is about having a personal relationship with Christ. So how much do I really love him? Do I love Christ enough to take back his house for him, to voice out against this institution that allegedly champions its faithful, this institution I have regarded as ‘home’ for so long? Is this anger within me how Christ felt when he drove out the money changers from the temple courtyard, railing, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt 21:12-17)?
This Sunday’s readings are a call to arms. “He (Christ) makes the deaf hear and the mute speak”. Christ commands us all to be indifferent no more. He commands us to see, to hear, to speak His truth, not to turn a blind eye any longer – even if that truth defies, “the wisdom of the wise and makes fail the foresight of the foresighted” (1 Cor 1:19).
It is time for us, God’s faithful, to arm ourselves with the Word of God. It is time for us torise up. “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared… the tongue of the mute will sing.” We can’t afford to be quiet anymore because one day that child, that daughter, sister, brother that was abused – could be ours. This is our problem as much as it is the problem of the victims who have suffered. Do not be afraid to speak of it when you’re at church. Do not be afraid to ask questions and demand answers of your deacons and your priests, your archbishops and your cardinals. Do not be afraid to voice dissent, to seek the truth. We are owed an explanation, we are owed accountability, we are owed transparency. This is our house too, our faith, our Church. And it has been subverted for long enough. It is time to take back God’s house.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for those who have spoken out against the powerful ruling factions of the Church and who have denounced the politics that cripple God’s house. We pray that God will guide us as a faithful people, to be strong and resolute, to speak His Word and seek His truth, wherever we stand. We pray for our Pope, that God give him the strength and protection he needs to carry out the difficult decisions that are before him.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Catholic saints that have gone before us, martyrs who were unafraid to speak God’s word, and to act on God’s bidding, even when it came at great personal cost.