A day of remembrance and prayer for the victims and survivors of sexual abuse in the Church
Men have shown they prefer darkness to light because their deeds were evil
There’s always some mental gymnastics involved when hearing the Gospel of John. But there’s one easy question at the heart of this Gospel (4th Sunday http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031118-year-b.cfm): Is there darkness in my life?
Thinking back to childhood we all did things we wanted to hide from mum and dad. Knowing the difference between good and bad, children tend give way to their conscience and confess their wrongdoing. However, bad people tend not to own up to themselves or others that they have preferred darkness.
In the desert –which Jesus refers to– there was wrongdoing by Israel. But there was also an acknowledgment and ownership of their dark or sinful behaviour. Similarly, the people we heard of in the 1st reading were in a dark place, I have lived in great darkness, and recently the Church in Australia has been unfaithful to the Lord. Do we, like those people in the desert, trust enough in God to acknowledge our sin?
Archbishop Costelloe says that the shame we can see in the story of the Church regarding the sexual abuse of children in Australia is mirrored in the words of Jesus, “though the light has come into the world [some of the clergy] have shown they prefer darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
What is the remedy for this infidelity and darkness? Reflecting on Jesus’ throwback to Moses lifting-up the bronze serpent in the desert, the 1st step is ownership of what we have done. Get it out there, identify it, recognise sin for what it is because it is killing you, just as the serpents were killing the Israelites in the desert. Own your sin and offer it to God. We must cry, ‘this is my sin, it is killing me, save me Lord.’
That was a start for the Israelites; that’s a start for us in our sinfulness; and that’s a start for the Church, regarding sexual abuse. But just saying, ‘Lord I did it, fix it,’ isn’t good enough. For example, praying for the healing of survivors of sexual abuse in the Church doesn’t go far enough for the perpetrators of these crimes. ‘I did it, fix it... I did it, I pray for them.’
More than identifying our darkness and infidelity, we must take responsibility for our sins. The Lord said that as the serpent was lifted-up, he would be lifted-up. Jesus has set the example of taking responsibility for sin and offering himself in reparation. More than identifying and turning away from sin, the redeemer calls us to co-redemption. This means we are to take responsibility for our sin, and those of others, and offer ourselves in reparation for it.
This is true discipleship. Jesus has sent his Spirit that empowers us to undertake his very same mission of self-sacrifice, self-surrender, and self-offering.
More than identifying and turning away from sin, the redeemer calls us to co-redemption; to be lifted-up with him. There is no limit to the responsibility we can take upon ourselves. Jesus was sinless and became sin (2 Cor 5:21) to make reparation for all, becoming Saviour of all. As the Lord laid down his life for others he asks us to be generous in response to our own sins, and to even make reparation for those of others, by laying down our lives for the Church.
Tough gig. May the Lady of All Nations be our Advocate ...
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster, and war. May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.
Image: Adam and Eve expelled from Eden, by Hans Heyerdahl, 1877