September 22, 2018

An Open Letter To Seekers

I am writing this letter on another anniversary of the events of 9/11. That was a day in which we saw great evil followed by acts of love, faith and charity. It occurred to me this morning how much, in a world of faith, evil can abide.

The recent events in the Church certainly have their elements in evil. There is no excuse for what happened to the victims. It is a time of hurt, sorrow and loss not only for the victims directly but, for all of us who held these perpetrators in high regard. The sense of innocence lost mixed with a large dose of hypocrisy is an elixir quite poisonous to our faith. Oh, how the Evil One must relish this time in history!

I have reminded a buddy of mine that only God judges people. However, we are to judge actions. We do so every day in our courts of law. We also have to hold our emotions in check until we have all the facts. We need to know the truth which lies beneath the sensationalism in the press. This is not to minimize the actions of individuals, but to move forward with a true sense of clarity.

With these recent events, I have reflected on my own experiences with clericalism. Several examples came to mind. Yet, in spending time contemplating these events, I have come to realize that the only real hurt has been to my ego. For there have been periods in my life where my faith was not my guide. Don’t we all go through times where our actions have been inconsistent with our words? So, before “we cast our stones,” let us recall where we need mercy and healing in our lives. I believe this is where our focus should be. These events should make us aware that we are all constantly battling not only evil impulses, but the Evil One himself.

Our emotions make us mad at the Church. Some will choose to leave. Some will withdraw their donations. Sadly, some who were considering RCIA will put off their journey of faith. I believe this is exactly what the Evil One wants us to do. Instead, as in all times of trial, let us come to the Cross. Let us come to the Sacraments. This is a time to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and not be led astray.

Ex Opere Operato. This phrase literally means “by the work done.” It reminds us that the Sacraments of the Church are not governed by man, even those in an evil state, but by Christ himself. The validity of Sacraments does not depend on the worthiness of the ministers because they are of Jesus, not man. God uses the imperfect as instruments of his perfection.

What does it say about our faith in Jesus Christ if the wrong actions of men can diminish our faith? We are called to use this hurt to build a stronger faith. Others cannot be the mirror of our actions. This is our responsibility. There are no surrogates in standing “before Peter.” Pray that the Lord will purge all evil from his Church and purge the evils in our lives.

This is not a time for the laity to rise. It has always been a time for the laity to rise. We have all been baptized as Priest, Prophet and King. We are all called to the mission of living and spreading the Gospel of Christ. But, we have been lax. Jesus wants to use us to be part of the “purge.” In politics, there are calls to “Drain the Swamp.” There are so many “swamps” in our own lives, as well. Christ calls us to “drain our swamps” before we look to the wasteland of others.

Let us not forget our faithful bishops, priests, deacons, and religious. They are hurting too. The vast majority are true to their vocation. They dedicate their lives to ministering to our lives. They are present in our joys, present in our sorrows, and present even when we drive past—when we are focused solely on the events in our Outlook calendars. Pray for them and, at your next Mass, let them know you support them.

So, our faith is challenged. What should we do: walk, run or hide? No. If our faith cannot stand up in times of struggle, we need a stronger faith. We must first go to prayer. Take our feelings and frustrations to Jesus. Give the God who loves us a chance to heal us. If you are mad at God, yell at him. He can take it. Such yelling is prayer! Relationships need communication but, they need two-way communication. Pray for understanding and the courage to forgive. Pray also with a heart that listens. Forgive, not forget. Pray for an understanding of the path God wants you to follow and then be open to the journey. Pray for healing in the Church and, in turn, be part of the healing process. Demand truth and work for justice. Is that a change in mission? It shouldn’t be. Again, it was the commission given to us at baptism, renewed at confirmation and accepted in our “Amen” at Holy Communion.

In RCIA, we talk about how being a Christian does not shield us from suffering. Jesus did not promise to take away our pain. He promised to be there with us during the hurt. Jesus did not come to take out of this world but to help us be more fully alive while we are here. Be the joy the world needs right now.

Take time in Adoration. Pray for the victims of 9/11, victims of these scandals, and victims of all injustice. Pray for the perpetrators, as well. Is that not what Christ calls us to do? Most importantly, reflect on the times when we were not living the truth of the Gospel in our lives. Perhaps that time is now.

But, in all of this, remember that God is present not just in the good time of our lives, but also in our suffering. Make this a time of healing. For all of us.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster

REVEREND DR. GREGORY WEBSTER is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate by Francis Cardinal George in May 2014 and is assigned to St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, Illinois. Deacon Greg holds a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Northern Illinois University, M.A. in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary and an M.A. in Bioethics and Health Policy from Loyola University of Chicago. Deacon Greg and his wife have been married more than twenty-five years and are blessed with three beautiful daughters and two pretty cool terriers.

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Written by Deacon Gregory Webster