Pastor’s Message September 2nd, 2018

Last Sunday’s Readings at Mass, especially the Gospel, give us much food for thought in these difficult times in the Church. The Gospels of the past few Sundays according to St. John, centered on the theme of the Eucharist. They were a break in the usual Gospels according to St. Mark that we’ve been following throughout during the year.
We don’t always understand everything we hear, just like the disciples in today’s Gospel. Jesus has told them, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  They didn’t understand. They said: “This is too hard to hear.” So, the Gospel tells us: “As a result, many of his disciples left.” We do that, too. I hear of people leaving the Catholic Faith because they say they don’t understand what is too hard to hear.
For instance, take last Sunday’s Reading from St. Paul. For many years before I entered the seminary, it seemed that whenever this reading came up – where wives were to be subordinate to their husbands – I didn’t understand why St. Paul was saying what he did. In those day, I was younger, more headstrong and impatient, so, I didn’t care for this reading. It seemed too hard, too sexist. As a result, I was turned off to a lot of other things that St. Paul said, or even anything said about him. I actually began shutting out St. Paul each week – at least until I came to study the Scriptures in my last four years at the seminary. I had chosen to abandon Paul because what he said was too difficult to understand. What I didn’t understand then was that marriage in his day was really a business arrangement between the parents – a convenience arrangement for financial reasons. For example, they questioned: How could it help a family to make a marriage match? How many cattle would she bring to the family? Does his family have a lot of land? The idea of marrying for love is mostly a concept from the last two centuries. Before that, the parents of the boy and girl who were to get married got together and brokered the situation, and everyone hoped that it would work out for the best.
So, what Paul is saying in that reading to the Ephesians is really radical. He is saying husbands should do more than treat their wives with some respect. Husbands should LOVE their wives. They should cherish them the way Jesus cherishes each of us.
During that lost period of time, I missed out on some of the greatest treasures of the Church. I realized later that St. Paul’s writings actually reflect his human-ness, and his love for the communities where he stayed and taught. His writings are wonderful!
But when things get too hard for us to understand, people want to leave the Catholic Church – especially now with the recent news about the Church in Pennsylvania and who knew what and when about Archbishop McCarrick – all of which is sad and terrible, for there are no excuses for allowing that kind of abuse to be tolerated or continued. Yet, we know it isn’t just in Pennsylvania; this is a disorder that has infected the Catholic Church across the country and around the world. As a result, some Catholics may decide “this is too hard, so I’m going to leave this Church.”
But if we look around at Mass, our Church is right there. This group of people in our parish on Saturday evening or Sunday morning – this is our community.  WE are the Catholic Church! Our Catholic traditions and sacraments are a way to deepen our relationship with God. We can’t let the horror that has been uncovered be our excuse to say, “This it too hard. I’m out of here!”
St. Paul also wrote to the Ephesians: “How great is the hope to be called to act.” This is a time to be called to that hope because our Catholic Church will be healed from this and our Church will be changed for the better because of this. Jesus assured Peter, whom He chose as the foundation Rock of the Church, that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
So, what can we doing beyond staying committed with hope? We can insist upon greater transparency and accountability, and to see that the laity are involved in the process. We can push for changes to bring much more lay experience into the internal procedures. We can be part of the Church that’s committed to healing and to reaching out to those who have become disillusioned and disgusted. It won’t be easy; but it will be blessed by the Spirit working among us so that we might be more of the Church that Jesus called us to be.
In the Gospel, Jesus looks around as many disciples began drifting away and leaving Him, and says to his apostles, “Are you leaving, too?” Peter answers for the twelve, and for us, “To whom would we turn? You have the words of eternal life.” Hang in there!