Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God he comes with vindication, with divine recompense he comes to save you.
Well, I am convinced that such order addresses every single one of us: those who project self-confidence; those who are optimistic about the future; and those who refuse to admit the presence of some form of fear in their hearts. Actually, in the wake of the explosive findings of the clergy sex scandal and the criminally irresponsible cover-ups by some in very high places of the Church’s hierarchy, we are not only frightened, but extremely angered, bewildered, and burdened with a painful sense of betrayal.
The Lord knows that all believers, who are in touch with this harsh reality, possess hearts that are frightened.
The Lord knows that the pain caused especially to the people in the pews by this latest shameless lack of accountability is unbearable and demands swift action of thorough uprooting of those responsible, beyond the usual words of regret and apology. If not constantly, at least whenever we are hit by the news of tragic events, senseless violence, ethical permissiveness, the callousness of greed, or we are sickened by the awful smell of moral decay of some shepherds, we wonder with apprehension about the future of our Church, especially the future that we, as a community, are shaping up for our children, or allowing (sheepishly) others to shape for them.
The Lord knows that we need, again, His love-filled reaction, His care, His guidance, His power to make those who are blind see the dignity of each human being regardless of social status and wealth, including the dignity of the most vulnerable and the victims of the lust of the powerful.
We need God’s power to clear the ears of the deaf, of those who block out the cry of the oppressed, of the exploited, of the pre-born children slaughtered routinely in abortion clinics across the country.
We need the Lord’s power to enable the weak to walk steadily on the path of moral values and integrity.
We need the Lord’s power to enable us to take the initiative, to get involved, to inconvenience ourselves by speaking out against injustices, against the subtle erosion of parental rights done in the name of enlightenment and progress and by demanding accountability and radical cleansing of the guilty among our spiritual guides.
Well, today too, the Lord lets us know that He cares, that He is going to intervene and make things right. His program has been spelled out by the Prophet Isaiah. (35:4-7) He is telling us:
Your plight is never out of my sight; I love you; I care for you; you are precious to me; there is a bright future in store for every one of my children, even if some in the Church have failed them again. The streams of my grace will burst forth even in the desert of corruption and betrayal. The rivers of my cleansing power will run through the overstep of clericalism and the arrogance of unbridled power.
I know that you might be tempted to leave the Church, to stop supporting her financially, to stay away from the Sacraments, to justify your weaknesses and sins by comparing them to the predatory behavior of wicked shepherds and the crimes of covering them up; but that is exactly what Satan wants you to do. The Church, with all its wounds and disgusting sinfulness, is still my Bride with whom I am and will be in love for all eternity. She is still the channel of grace and the divinely-chosen, ordinary means through which my salvation is to reach everyone.
My dear, saddened, bewildered and infuriated brothers and sisters in Christ, the hurts of those who have been victimized and, then, ignored are indeed our wounds—are our hurts. We are not powerless because we truly can do all things in Him who empowers us. (Philippians 4:13)
In solidarity with the hurting members of the Body of Christ, we should pray with anguished hearts, do penance in reparation for all, big and small, sins that are causing so much pain to the Church and accept our share of sufferings to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of the Body of Christ. (Colossians 1:24)
Humbly aware of our mottled history and of our frailty, we need to reply with an act of animated faith to Jesus’ offer of powerful, sweeping intervention. We firmly believe that to our Lord Jesus, all frightened hearts are important and worthy of his undivided attention; all wounds need his prompt and gentle care.
However, we are surprised by what he does to us next. Mistakenly, we think that through prayers and penance and by voicing our displeasure, we are putting all matters in his hands; but that was never, is never, and will never be His modus operandi. We quickly forget that we can do all things in Him who empowers us.
What follows, in a figurative way, borders on the gross, beyond what is unconventional and, seemingly, useless. He gets very “physical with us:” he puts his fingers into our ears; he smears his saliva on our tongue. Jesus repeats what the priest or the deacon did and said on the day of our Baptism: “Ephphatha. Be opened. “
Jesus gets physical; He does so in all Sacraments, in the sacramentals, in the confessional booth, in the proclamation of his Word and, as today, in a most forceful way by urging us to chew on His Flesh.
No impediment, no apprehension, no illness, no wound is too small or too big for Him who died and rose again for our freedom and salvation.
Perhaps we feel trapped by forces too big for us to handle. No matter what our situation, our condition, our need, the Lord wants us to know that He intends to get physical with us again and again. We must realize, today, that God’s infinite power is all at our disposal. The amount of that power that would transform our lives and the life of people whom we love depends on our trust and on our docility to His touch.
Today, may we discover the full extent of His power and grace so that, through our bold contribution, we might bursts into a cry of praise and joy: He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.