"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

July 22, 2018

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 4:52 pm

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 22, 2018 – St. John’s, Goshen

I could not read today’s first reading without thinking of how applicable it is to the scandals that have racked the Catholic Church for the last several decades, which savagely wounded this parish in particular, scandals one wanted to think were past and gone but which have surfaced again in the last weeks as affecting men in very high positions in the Church. “Woe to the shepherds,” Jeremiah begins his indictment, “woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture…. You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them.”

It was the lack of care for their people on the part of bishops that most angered people, both in and outside the Church, when it was discovered that they had not removed pedophiles from the ministry but had re-assigned them, enabling them to harm the flock somewhere else. “You have not cared for them.”

And how many Catholics have left the Church because of these scandals, which for them called into question the institution that could tolerate such practices and made them wonder whether there were not sinister explanations of the failure to act of so many high Church officials. Authority is a relationship of trust, and the betrayal of trust on the part of those in authority will quickly lead many people to lose confidence in the institution itself. I believe that happened here in St. John’s. A whole generation of people seems to be missing. “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.”

After this indictment comes the prophetical promise: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock,” a prophecy we believe was fulfilled in Christ whose tender care is described at the end of today’s Gospel reading: “His heart was moved with pity for them, fo they were like sheep without a shepherd.” So that it is of Christ that we think when we pray the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd.”

There is a further promise: “ I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble, and none shall be missing.” But this promise will be fulfilled only if those appointed as shepherds–pastors–are trustworthy–leaders who will have the talent and above all the character–the integrity and holiness–that are needed in order to lead the people with as tender a care as Christ showed. It is sad, but I think true, that many Catholics no longer trust that those in those in authority in the Church have such gifts or are careful to see that only those with such gifts are ordained or promoted within the Church. It may be a long time before such trust can be restored.

In the meantime, today’s Gospel can ground a surer hope, because Christ does not cease to look upon us with pity–with affectionate mercy–, and it is he, the one we have just sung is our Shepherd, whom we encounter here at Mass, in the readings and in the food we receive from this altar-table. Let us try to remember that always. We don’t come to church to meet a priest. We come to church to meet Christ who refreshes our souls, who spreads a table before us, who anoints us with joy, whose goodness and kindness follow us all the days of our life. We come to church to encounter Christ.

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