Repair my house, rebuild my church

( My homily from Sunday, about the statewide grand jury report out of Pennsylvania.)

I was an assistant state’s attorney (a prosecutor) in Christian County some years ago. I remember the first time I read a police report about a sexual assault with a child victim.

The kid was 10 years old.

The police officer who investigated it dropped off the report in person. Then waited while I read it. In case I had any questions.

When I got done reading it, I looked up and saw that he was studying me.

He said to me, “It’s your first one, isn’t it?”

I said, “How could you tell?”

His response, “Because you look like you’re going to throw up.”

Before I could respond, he continued, “It’s okay if you do. It’s that bad.”

I bring this up, because this last week, like many of you, I saw the news about the statewide grand jury report out of Pennsylvania.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the grand jury report details decades of sexual abuse of over 1,000 children by 300-plus priests in 6 Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. Supported by decades of ignoring, hiding, and even enabling the abuse by bishops and priests who had the power to stop it. 

I know what’s in it, because I read the grand jury report for myself. It was like reading that police report again. Times a thousand.

It’s that bad.

And it’s just the latest garbage.

Sharing space in the media with what seems like an ever-growing body of sickening revelations about ex-Cardinal McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

For all of us in the Diocese of Springfield, this takes us right back to the days of Bishop Ryan.

To the evil that was done by him. And enabled by him. To the trust that was lost. To wounds that for some still are not fully healed.

To everyone who has been hurt by this, to everyone whose trust has been broken by this, personally and on behalf of the Church, I am sorry for all of the harm that has been done to you, for all of the evil that has been done to you in the name of God.

To everyone whose faith has been shaken by this, I get it.

Personally, this steady stream of revelations of evil and abuse has been like gut punch after gut punch for me.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for those who have been personally hurt by this.

It would be really easy to walk away right now. Certainly no one could blame you for being completely disgusted. And turning your back on what looks to many like a bottomless cesspool of sin and corruption.

Which is why what I am asking to do you is so difficult.

Right now, Jesus is calling you. Not bishops, not priests, not deacons. But you.

In the words that Our Lord first spoke to St. Francis: “Repair my house, rebuild my church.”

If you have the heart. If you have the intestinal fortitude. If you’re willing to answer that call, to rebuild the Church, then I can tell you how to start.

It begins with three things:

Number One – if you see something, say something.

Thank God, we are now blessed with a Bishop who gets it. Read his column in the latest Catholic Times, and you’ll see what I mean.

You’ll also find all of the contact information and hotline numbers, for the Department of Children and Family Services, and for reporting things to the Diocese.

The best way to stop evil is to expose it. No matter whether the garbage involves the abuse of children or adults, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Number Two – offer an act of reparation.

Not because you’ve done anything wrong.

But precisely because you haven’t. Because your hands are clean, your prayers in reparation for this evil are more powerful than you know.

If you want to lay the axe to the root of this sickening tree, pray for God’s healing for the victims of abuse. And for the cleansing of the Church at her deepest levels.

Add this intention to your prayers every day. And then step it up.

Come early and join us for the rosary before Mass. Make a Holy Hour of Adoration next Friday. Add it to your intentions at this Mass, and at every Mass.

As St. James tells us, “the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”

Number Three – fill your soul with Christ.

Today’s Gospel is the bread of life. It’s not an allegory. It’s not symbolic.

How can you tell? Whenever Jesus says something like “Amen, amen, I say to you,” He’s being literal. With today’s Gospel, the bread of life? It’s as literal as it gets.

Which is why we take Him at His word. Our Lord is literally, truly, physically, really present in the Eucharist.

Which means what?

It means that no matter what has happened, or what does happen, Jesus will never turn His back on you.

It means that no matter how we, His unworthy servants, fail you, Jesus never will.

It means that you need to do exactly what Jesus tells us to do in today’s Gospel.

Because there’s no way you can do what needs to be done in your own strength. And you don’t have to. The strength you need to this is right here, waiting for you in the Eucharist.

Receive Our Lord in the Sacrament. And then do it more often than you think you need to.

Trust me, there isn’t one of us who couldn’t use it more.

Which leaves just one thing:

Will you walk away, or will you say yes to Our Lord’s call to “repair my house, rebuild my church?”

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