The only thing good about the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church is the way they have brought to light the abuse of power, the realities of sexual deviance, encouragement of healing for victims and accountability for perpetrators in all sectors of society. Signs of hope are in the Church this week at the Special Vatican convocation, the Me Too Movement, procedural changes in Church, Education, Sports, Medical, Scouts institutions. Acknowledgment of cover-ups of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention is another sad but necessary development in the quest for healing and ongoing prevention. See this Washington Post article:
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily by Father James DiLuzio CSP for Saint Barnabas, Bronx, NY
When “the eyes of the blind be open be opened, and the ears of the deaf cleared:” your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.
These words from Isaiah remind me of the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes who after the many visions of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Most of the sisters welcomed her, but one, in a Superior’s role, took an instant disliking to the girl becoming woman because of Bernadette’s celebrity. This sister ignored the fact that one of the reasons Bernadette sought religious life was to avoid all the attention that her apparitions of Mary, mother of God, brought to her and to focus on prayer and the virtues of penance. Moreover, when Bernadette was later stricken with tuberculosis of the bone in her right knee, the pain of which caused her to limb in prayer processions, her Superior mocked and ridiculed her and accused her of seeking favor and pity from the other sisters. Only when the Superior’s eyes were opened to the extent of the disease that had spread and the physician’s verification that Bernadette was dying did the Superior move to compassion and repentance. Her eyes were opened, and she spoke as an advocate for the young woman ever after, taking care of Bernadette for the remaining time of the Saint’s life until Bernadette died at the age of 35.
Take note, again, of Isaiah’s phrase: “Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”
Clearly God is ever at work in the world, but human hearts and minds are so prone to ignore the signs, to override impulses of grace for more selfish motives. The realities of evil, temptations toward the deadly sins of envy, pride so often thwart the kingdom which is way, dear disciples, that God’s will is not done “on earth as it is in heaven” until some breakthrough of Grace occurs. That grace occurred in the waning year of Bernadette’s life, but it may not have occurred on earth, for the power of evil is great in this world, but, joyfully, it did.
Jesus perpetuated the realization of God’s will for the deaf man with the speech impediment. The reality of the miracle is but our first entry into faith in Jesus –belief that God’s will does include the miraculous, not for show, not for excitement, but always for healing, for reconciling people back to health and true human dignity. Jesus’ healing ministry also reconciles others to compassion and patience with the sick and suffering in our lives.
How can today’s Scriptures not bring us, once again, to attend to our institution’s failures to “see and hear” regarding the suffering of minors—children and teens—for decades.
Some of us may experience weariness as the crisis unfolds, but we must not let weariness hide the sins nor the vindications and restitutions that must be fulfilled for our hierarchy’s tragic failures. And there is much work to do for those who suffer beyond the Church’s walls : in homes and schools and sports clubs and everywhere else where there are maladjusted, unhealthy adults preying upon the young and innocent –not only sexually, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. It must be apparent by now that the Church’s scandal is so closely aligned with the dynamics of incest evident in many families who have yet to seek justice, heal and reconcile because family members caved into to incredulity, fears of scandal, and, in those cases where victims were believed –insisted on secrecy rather than truth. That is what our bishops have done and it’s time they accept the full scope of the civil consequences of their actions. And here’s the most important, of many reasons why: when Church and families have the courage to bring the offenses of the innocent to light–no matter the rank and file of their perpetrators– victims have their suffering acknowledged and that, in and of itself is the necessary breakthrough that empowers healing and introduces hope. Our Church could commission studies by psychologists and social workers on the tragic secrecy and denial dynamic—so harmful in that it prevents victims’ vindication.
I urge Catholics to be pro-active: write our bishops with your feelings and your ideas on all that we can still do to transform our institutions and build on the progress we’ve made to ministering to those hurt by the Church. Of course, we begin with ministries to minors abused by clergy, but there are many more abused emotionally and spiritually from negative Church encounters of other kinds. Last week I myself wrote to Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal DeNardo, President of the US Conference of Catholic of Bishops with suggestions I gleaned from many conversations with people from insightful articles in the news.
At the heart of these is the recommendation that Church Authority include far more lay people, professionals in all fields, especially women among them, and programs that will include life-long follow-up to victims of abuse—children, teens and young adults within the Church and outside of the Church because abuse of minors requires a life time for healing –and we owe them every opportunity.
The miracle of seeing and hearing the truth from victims and walking with them as Jesus walks with all of us will purify and strengthen all those who participate in these ministries. We cannot afford to proclaim the Miracles of Jesus, the healing power of Jesus as we do today, and not participate in it. Our Church has fallen into darkness once again – as it has many times before during history –but you and I together must rekindle the light of Christ through our words and actions to all who suffer. It’s now or never.
The Scripture Readings:
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1IS 35:4-7A
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
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;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
Responsorial Psalm PS 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
- (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
Reading 2JAS 2:1-5
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?
Alleluia CF. MT 4:23
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 7:31-37
Again, Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished, and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In light of the PA report regarding egregious numbers of priests abusing minors since 1940″s: In the early centuries of Christianity, often sinners were required to go public for serious crimes. The local communities required penitents to wear sackcloth and ashes at the entrance of churches until their penance / amends had been fulfilled. The PA Report names the guilty in a way that is fitting, and, hopefully, offers some comfort to victims who need to see public acknowledgment of their perpetrators, many of whom are now deceased. What remains to be worked out is an ecumenical and government consensus defining a universally just reparation to victims and families and a standard of just punishment for surviving perpetrators in both civil and ecclesiastical realms.* This could be applied to all realms where sexual abuse is found – in homes, schools, medical residences, youth clubs, etc. Because of the lifetime trauma victims experience, the statute of limitations must be lifted in all sectors of Church and Society, equally, with no exemptions. Time to set things right in all realms. God help Church and Society recover.
- In 1888 Founder of the Paulist Fathers, Servant of God Isaac Hecker wrote, “The reintegration into general principles of the scattered truths contained in religion, social and political sects and parties of our day would reveal to all upright souls their own ideal more clearly and completely, and at the same time present to them the practical measures and force necessary to its realization.” I.e., when the same truths are articulated in all or many sectors / institutions, the prospects for acting upon and realizing those truths are great.
Anti-Semitism is Anti-Humanity. Who are we scapegoating these days–family members, friends or foes, peoples or nations? Who are we blaming for all our problems, conflicts or woes? Blaming in many ways is irrational because we all contribute in varying degrees to the problems we face. Moreover, blaming paralyzes us, exhausts our energies that could be better used to addressing our problems by collaborating with others on solutions to the problems we face.
This is exactly what Jesus meant when he insisted that his followers “Stop Judging” and “Stop Condemning” for these are dead ends that prevent us from correcting problems with honesty, humility and a deeper humanity. This does not mean we should not speak out against wrongdoing , but without the condemnation because no hurtful action occurs in isolation of a troubled relationship for which all parties bear responsibilities. We must ask ourselves when we are tempted to blame a person, a group, a nation for something, “What have I done (or our leaders done?) to contribute to this problem, this conflict, these negative feelings?”
Even more importantly, ask “What approach will better address this conflict, these feelings to blame, to scapegoat : Name-calling, demeaning, belittling another? OR -asking “How can we work together to alleviate our conflicts and the prejudices we have embraced?” “What’s honest about our issues and complaints with another? What’s irrational?” “What are the true sources of our problems?” We need to ask God for greater maturity and wisdom in addressing feelings of conflict and blame and take care to act in ways that let grace take hold of us.
Heed this WARNING:
27th Sunday of OT -Year A Homily Fr. James M. DiLuzio C.S.P.
Scriptures: Isaiah 5: 1-7: Psalm 80: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10: Gospel of Matthew 21: 33-43
Parents say to their children: This is your Home; We have taken the responsibility of your material needs, your need for love and nurturing AND the essential importance of learning about cooperation, mutual respect and the give and take, patience and generosity required for appreciating life in this family, and ultimately, in this world. Together we are building your FUTURE. And, if the family is a family of faith, they would add, continually, “God will see us through.”
The tenant farmers in the Gospel are equivalent to children or adults dependent upon a parent/ adult / employer for their life and livelihood. But evidently, they either have not had good parenting OR, for reasons we are not given, they found themselves filled with FEAR & DISTRUST. They turned inward instead of outward. Rather than bringing grievances, uncertainties, disappointments to their employer, they decided to take matters into their own hands. No desire for deeper understanding, no desire for compromise, no prayer, no attempt at dialogue are in evidence. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they empowered their fear and distrust which inevitably gave way to “Selfishness” and “Greed.” Their fears fed envy and jealousy, their distrust, violence. In the parable, the consequences were deadly; a matter of spiritual life and death, because the true OWNER of the Vineyard was God, the Father of All, who welcomes our questioning, our prayer, our disappointments. In hearing the parable today, we are meant to muse “If only the Tenant Farmers had turned to God who sent His Son to bring deeper understanding, and hope; if only WE could abandon our fears and distrust–be it of God, Church or State and believe without reservation that God’s Holy Spirit is with us continually to inspire, to engage and motivate us to work through our anxieties and fears and strive for a better future.
Many commentators and pundits tells us that Americans are not living in faith these days but in Fear and Distrust. We read that many Americans are afraid of immigrants, of foreigners, or people of religions other than their own. They read, see and hear the news –which, because of the way news is prioritized—is often the BAD NEWS of community, country and cosmos—and are literally afraid and demoralized. Others are afraid of our government limiting our freedoms, while, at the same time, many others lost faith in our government to keep us safe. Some want protection from the economy and its impact on the workforce, others consider that inappropriate intervention. Some make speeches about freedom of religion and freedom of speech–noting that, at times, questions as to “whose religion” and “whose speech” are not satisfactorily answered; nor is the degree to which hate and violence-inducing speech is a right or abuse of a right. And most recently, many writers deduce that fear is what makes so many people unwilling to evaluate the benefits and burdens of the 2nd Amendment– about the right to bear arms as it applies to the 21st century. Common sense tells us that the lawmakers of 1791 could never have envisioned the great diversity of guns and ammunitions available to the American civilian today—certainly not the kind that were used to kill a music loving crowd in Las Vegas. But, for many, it is as if the mere suggestion of a discussion on the possible ways we could adapt an 18th century Law to 21st century circumstances was somehow “Un-American.” We have to ask, “What price “liberty?” when fear and distrust rule the heartland?
One thing the Scriptures tell us is that Liberty has responsibilities. Individual Freedoms of one person or group do, in fact, impact the individuality and freedom of others. When Jesus tells us that He is with us “For when two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them,” it’s not only His assurance of his answers to prayer, but to the necessity of communion with and among others for His presence to take full hold of our lives. To apply this Gospel to ourselves today, we must ask, “To what extent do we have faith and trust in God? In Jesus and His teachings? In the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins as part of the road to Resurrection of the Body and Life in the World to come?” In short, “to what extent do we offer Jesus the highest priority within our lives, positions and priorities, and, yes, even our politics?” To what extent to we cling to Jesus who repeatedly tells people of faith: “Do Not Be Afraid?”
The Gospel today is not only a reflection on religious history regarding those who did not accept Christ as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, which, on the surface, is exactly what the parable is about. It is also about how any or all of God’s Children can misuse the faith and life situations we have been given. It’s about how people who lack trust in God, in Providence, in the Holy Spirit active in the world bring suffering upon themselves.
Perhaps it is time for us to evaluate our contributions to America’s distrust and fears; confess our personal culpabilities as to the extent we contribute to the fears and anxieties of our age, rather than trust in God to guide us through them with patience, with charity, with hope. Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s emphasis on Thanksgiving strengthens the foundation of faith that Everything belongs to God: every land and every people. Recognizing our very lives are “on loan” from God, makes gratitude the only way to live. We have this Eucharist to focus us on Thanksgiving, trust that the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, both, will guide us through the anxieties of the age to insist on fairness, justice and hope—and not to be afraid of change that is for the better for all rather than a few; not be afraid to cultivate charitable discourse “in-person,” i.e., with persons rather than in the impersonal dimensions of the internet alone. Not afraid to say we believe in a communion of saints-in-the making, believe in Christ Jesus and that communion commands dialogue with rich and poor, church leaders and local communities, police and their precinct constituents, neighbors with neighbors, citizens with immigrants, different colors of peoples mingling with peoples of different colors.
May this Eucharist increase the grace that endows us with courage, perseverance and hope to address this age of anxiety, its fears and discouragements. May our worship today inspire us to advance the Good News: God is with us, to help us expand God’s kingdom so that HOPE is offered to all, here, now and in the Future for generations to come.
Some THEOLOGY FOR TODAY: Regarding how FORGIVENESS & ACCOUNTABILITY can go hand-in-hand:
It is always good that we WRESTLE with the dynamics of both, just as Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32) the night before he took the chance to return to his homeland and be greeted by his brother Esau (the one from whom he took the birthright and blessing of the firstborn). Already we see that Jacob had to take the consequences of his actions (flee his homeland, live under the authoritarian rule of Uncle Laban for over 14 years, etc.) There is a strong Biblical sense that God allows the consequences of our actions to play themselves out–assuring us that God is with us in these undertakings and strengthens us, helping us to mature and grow while still forgiving us. The magnanimity of Esau when he greets and hugs Jacob is quite astonishing but not at all unrelated to Esau being fully aware of Jacob’s years of exile. Similarly, Jesus forgave Peter for denying him, yet Jesus did not respond immediately to Peter’s tears but allowed Peter to experience the grief and self-scrutiny he needed before the Resurrection proclamation of PEACE BE WITH YOU. Of course, there is a time to completely “wipe the slate clean,” as the saying goes, but this requires prayerful discernment in relation to the offense and the harm to self and others, and the personalities and age of the persons involved. The Prodigal Son, for example, is forgiven and embraced, but the Father’s property is not going to be divided once again for the prodigal’s benefit. His brother’s portion remains intact and the prodigal will be indebted to the Father’s and ultimately his brother’s mercy until which time he is able to go out on his own with a sense of responsibility and dignity–if ever.
In the Sermon on the Plain, when Jesus says, “‘From the one who takes what is yours, do not demand it back,” I think Jesus is referring to our usual rage and insecurities that someone has taken advantage of us. He invites us to move from the bitter anger we feel and instead, find our dignity and worth with confidence in God’s love so that when we address the “robber,” there is a sense of God’s justice, not ours–i.e., some accountability but not as if our life and dignity depended upon it (in which case the punishments often do not fit the crime). Rather, “The Kingdom of God” invites us to always be about growing in wisdom, forbearance and Hope–for the offender just as much as for ourselves.
This issue is a large one with many levels and applications — including, for example, our prison systems that are far more punitive than redemptive. It doesn’t mean killers go free to kill again but it does mean that they are treated with dignity throughout their life in prison to the extent that their souls and spirits through “tough love,” if you will, are given opportunities toward remorse, empowering them to accept the consequences of their actions, take responsibility for them, and prepare for heaven– mental and emotional illnesses notwithstanding. Not everyone, not every Christian agrees with this but I believe we are compelled to wrestle with these concepts.
A friend asked me why, as a priest, I continue to comment on politics. Here’s why:
My politics aren’t limited to any one realm but they are informed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was very critical of all peoples in power and in institutions that run without mercy just as God is mercy. Jesus would condemn terrorists, communists and greedy capitalists equally as each in their own way (terrorists most explicitly) contribute to the suffering, and yes, death of many peoples far beyond “self-defense.” It’s a social sin that governments build up armaments at the expense of fare trade food, health and education for their people. I certainly think Kim of North Korea is filled with evil and so is his nuclear tests, and he should be handled with harsh criticism and sanctions, but hasn’t our country set the example of “might makes right” long ago? Not that we shouldn’t be able to defend ourselves and innocent people–and, yes, hindsight regarding our pacifism to Hitler early on was a terrible mistake, but, all the same, if we spent an equal amount on diplomacy and support of our poorest citizens, and assist, when we can, other countries to do the same, there would be far less to criticize. Peoples who have basic needs met are far less likely to revolt, turn to violent revolutions, racisms and the like. In the 1986 the United States Bishops Conference issued a researched paper calling for Justice in the Economy (See Below) Wall Street and Conservative Catholic Economists crucified the contents saying that religious leaders need to keep out of non-spiritual matters. However, Jesus received the same hostility when he began his public ministry (See Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4) and his criticism of established norms of state and church put him on the Cross. (He called Herod “a fox.” And “render to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s “is not about separation of Church and State but pointing out the limits of the state because, for believers, all belongs to God. All prominent Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox scholars have affirmed this for almost a century, but people still hold on to old world views and old ways of interpreting the scriptures. The point of the Cross was to put a mirror onto society and its violent, selfish aspects to forgive and transform them. Not simply forgive and let business continue as usual. Nothing should stay the way it is because it worked in the past. People forget the Bible is as much future-oriented as it informs us of the past. At any rate, that is just some of the basis for my informed, prayerful sense that religion and politics must be kept in dialogue and that religion considering Jesus is asked to take a critical stance and look at the consequences for as many people as possible, not just a few, in reviewing current trends and legislations.
Meanwhile chick this out http://www.usccb.org/upload/economic_justice_for_all.pdf