Thursday, June 8, 2017

A secret

I want to share a secret: the Church is filled with sinners. I admit that it is not a very good secret. At times, though, we can pretend that it is a secret or that we are not really sinners. We act like this statement in itself is scandalous, ignoring that is the sinful behavior that is cause of scandal, not that the members struggle with sin. From the first apostles until now, this has been the case. Call to mind the original 12 apostles. They were not perfect. Time and again, they bumbled their way through life. Consider St. Peter, patron of our fair city. He sometimes got things so right - making the bold profession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and having courage to take the first step onto the water, only to display complete ignorance to God’s will or take his eyes off our Lord. Or think of Judas, the man who could follow Jesus for three years, but sold him out for thirty pieces of silver, then to commit suicide in despair. The other apostles who ran, hid, or were skeptical. No, the Church, as beautiful as she is as a whole, is filled with sinners in her members. But that is good - the Church is a hospital for the sick, not a shrine for the perfect. We as members are not perfect, but the Body of Christ, united to Christ as head, is. While the vile acts of some priests have certainly challenged us, the message of the Church remains - that Christ is our savior. But we still act in such a way that suggests we can keep this secret. First, we members and leadership attempt to be “Nice”, and to avoid anything that would not be seen as ‘nice’. We become too accommodating, allowing bad behavior because we are in the Church (a problem that also plagued the early Church as some rejoiced in the freedom to sin) . We do not want to offend anyone, so we allow sin to go unchallenged. We too often allow unprofessional behavior in the workplace lest we come off as mean. We are members of the Church, after all, and we are supposed to love and accept everyone, right? The opposite of this being nice is also prevalent - we can be done right mean. We disparage those who do not meet our ideas of perfection, and we become too demanding. Specifically, we might look at incidents of members condemning a unmarried woman who is pregnant, or groups protesting funerals as God’s punishment. Neither of these extremes (nice or mean) reveal Jesus. Jesus is merciful, certainly, but He is also just. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors, but did not confirm them in their sins but called them to conversion. We need to be kind and loving, but the most loving thing we can sometimes do is challenge someone to be better, to respond to grace. Too often the charge of hypocrisy is thrown around when we do so, however. It is not hypocrisy to be a sinner seeking conversion, but it is hypocrisy to pretend like we do not sin, or to hold others to standards we do not apply to ourselves, however imperfectly. Only when we get beyond the fear of being called hypocrites, only when we stop fearing that we are sinners to be discovered, will we find the grace to move forward in the Lord. The truth is that there are sinners in the Church, but we are sinners who know our savior is Jesus who loves us and calls us to repentance.

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