Back on Friday, September 14th, the Church celebrated the feast of The Triumph of the Cross. Having served as pastor at Holy Cross in Bay Settlement, I’ve thought a lot over the years about their patronal feast day.
Given the recent months and this last week of challenges in our universal, national & local Church, I believe the feast has something to offer us in healing & hope – a reality check of sorts.
One of the scriptures for the feast (as it is EVERY weekend in Saturday Vespers) comes from Philippians 2: “Though in the form of God, Jesus took the form of a slave; and more humble still, He accepted death, even death on a cross. BECAUSE OF THIS HUMILITY, (emphasis mine) God raised Him up, and gave Him the name above all others.”
One important Truth which the present scandals of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal negligence and/or mismanagement force us to come to grips with is this: As human beings (and God knows this) we each have some form of sin, mistake, failure, commission, omission, or selfishness on our ledger by which we have hurt the heart of God and the hearts of other persons.
Amazingly beautiful, but also flawed, we are a curious mixture of sin and grace, vice and virtue, good and evil. Sooner or later we stumble, each one of us, into some form of serious sin for which God is the only remedy. And each of us has been on the receiving end of such sin from others, too!
This reality puts each one of us in need of God’s mercy, healing and relentless love. This reality also forces us, if we are going to love anybody or be loved by them, to love flawed, broken, incomplete, sinful persons just as God does…relentlessly! (Ouch!?! This is tough!?!)
In order to do this we must be willing to recognize the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, right alongside each other, in ourselves and in other persons! What humility this demands!?!
If we were/are perfect, then there’s no need for God, for Jesus Christ, for the Church because we could do it ourselves! But of course, we can’t. In fact, our sins are the form which the Holy Cross takes for us, as individuals and collectively, as a Church of sinners-becoming-saints.
In light of the present crisis – really a moral, spiritual and pastoral crisis in the Church – the implications are profound. We must deal with the harsh reality of sin. We must protect and reverence children and vulnerable adults. We must seek to heal and trust God to heal. We must demand and accomplish necessary reforms. And we must remember that all of us, even abusers, even bishops who’ve made mistakes, stand together before God, under the cross of our sins, trusting the richness of God’s merciful and healing Love. With these gifts, here and forever…
“God bless us…EVERY one”!