Is the Church SHIPWRECKED? Homily for 8/19

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Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


This year the theme of our parish Vacation Bible School for kids is
SHIPWRECKED: Rescued by Jesus!
Our VBS doesn’t begin until tomorrow morning
but I’ve been feeling SHIPWRECKED for the last couple of weeks.

Maybe you’ve been feeling the same.

I’m almost reluctant to pick up the paper
or turn on the news or go online
for fear I’ll find that the ship of the Church has run aground,
has sunk a little lower than the day, the month, the years before.
It is a Truly. Sinking. Feeling.

You know, if we’d we been attacked by pirates,
the losses might not be so hard to take.
But the damage done comes not at the hand of outsiders
but from a mutiny below decks by some of the ship’s own crew.
And that makes the saga even more difficult,
more impossible to fathom, much less to accept.

A sinking feeling, yes, but in fact, the ship of the Church
has not run aground and it certainly hasn’t sunk.
 She may be stalled in the doldrums of abuse, shame and anger
but life aboard largely continues apace.

And by that I do not mean “business as usual.”
We can never again be satisfied, as we have been in the past,
with “business as usual”
in the face of such grievous sin and its horrific damage
to individuals, to their families and to the whole faith community.
Like Jesus, whose Body we are,
the Church (that’s us) is called to be a wounded healer.
We need only look at the Cross to understand that:
Jesus, the wounded healer.

Even when deeply wounded,
the Church is not excused from serving others.

• So, in spite of our hurt, our shame and our anger
we gather together today to celebrate the Eucharist.

• And tomorrow morning
a record large number of children and volunteers
will begin a week of Vacation Bible School.

• On Tuesday and Saturday,
I’ll be the on-call Catholic chaplain at Emerson Hospital.

• I don’t know yet what funerals we’ll soon celebrate
and which grieving families  Holy Family Parish will serve
in the weeks ahead of us - I only know they’ll be coming.

• Nor does our parish staff  know who will email, call
or come by the office every day
looking for help, looking for answers, looking for counseling.

• Hundreds of Catholic military chaplains
are serving our troops at home and overseas, often in harm’s way.

• The Archdiocese of Boston will continue to be,
second only to the Commonwealth,
this state’s largest provider of social services.

• Catholic hospitals all over the United States
will treat the sick, deliver newborn children
and perform procedures and surgeries to save lives.

• This September some 1.8 million children will go back to school
in the classrooms of 6,300 Catholic elementary and high schools
while over 720,000 students in this country will be enrolled
at Catholic universities and colleges.

• Catholic Charities USA will continue to serve millions of people,
around the world, regardless of their faith,
through affordable housing, immigrant and refugee outreach,
disaster relief and many other services too many to list here.

• In our own parish our Service and Justice Commission
and St. Vincent de Paul Society are serving those in need
in Concord, in Lawrence, in the greater Boston area,
in New Mexico and in Haiti.

The ship of faith may be taking on water
but it has not run aground, much less sunk.

Still, there is much serious work yet to be done to insure
that the tragedy of abuse be stopped as far as is humanly possible.
Cardinal O’Malley has sent a message to parishes
and asked that it be read at all Masses this weekend.
I will do that at the end of Mass today
and copies of that message will be available with the bulletin.

In addition,
I’ve made copies of a message from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo,
the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
His message outlines the steps the Conference will soon take
to make reform to ensure that abuse and cover-ups
no longer have a place in the Roman Catholic Church.
Copies of that message will also be available.

I know that some may be thinking of leaving
the ship of the Catholic faith.
- in fact, many have left over the past 16 years.
But you are still here and I urge to stay on board.
When we uncover problems in the house we live in,
even serious structural problems,
we take responsibility for repairing them,
even if we weren’t the ones who built the house.

The Church is the Body of Christ and you and I are its members.

We are the members of Christ’s Body
as surely as our arms and legs, hands and feet, eyes and ears,
are members of our own bodies.

In this time of moral crisis in our own Church we need one another
as perhaps we have never needed each other before.

So I plead with you: please, stay on board.

Every time I hear confessions I am humbled
by the faith and contrition of those who come to be reconciled
with God and with the Church.

And every time I hear confessions I am reminded of my own sins
and my own need for God’s mercy.

As I read and listen to the news these days
I think of the ways that I, in my ministry,
have not been as faithful to the Lord, the Church and you
as I’m called to be.

I invite you to pray in the same way.
Let this time of repentance and purification for the larger Church
call each of us to live with greater fidelity
to Jesus, to his gospel and to the Church he gave us.

Sinking feelings?  Yes.    
Taking on water?  Yes.    
Shipwrecked?  No.

Jesus is the Captain of our ship of faith
and with his grace and help
we can and we will continue our ship’s journey under full sail,
our sheets filled and powered by the breath of his Spirit.

So, come, share in the Eucharist,
share in the Bread and Cup,
in the Body and Blood of Jesus
that he remain in us
- and we in him.


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