April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday is my favorite day of the Church Year. There is this breathless vacuum that exists beween the devastating sadness of Good Friday and the exhilarating joy of Easter, that sacred space between death and life, hopeless and hope, sin and redemption. Our eyes strain to see once again the first reassuring signs that God truly did – and does – love us so much that He would take our nature and the weight of all of our sinfulness and depravity, and offer His Begotten Son to die on the Cross to overcome the forces of death and sin once and for all – for you, for me, for everyone.

If there is any time in recent memory where this kind of faith and understanding is needed I can’t remember it. You have,of course, the neverending cycles of war, poverty, and suffering, but this year during the most holytime of the Church Year the headlines are filled with the latest revelations of how various leaders of the Roman Catholic Church aided and abetted the systematic abuse of children across Europe over the past several decades, same as morethan a decade ago in the U.S. It’s as puzzling to me as it is to thousands upon thousands of Catholics why the Vatican and its leaders, in the interest of full disclosure, doesn’t come out and wipe the slate clean by admitting what it did and when, release all the info they have – including names and dates – and discipline everyone involved. Everyone.

It would be nice if the Church leaders were able to echo Christ’s last words as he hung beaten, bloody, and dying on a cross: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”, but in this case I think a lot of people knew exactly what people were doing (and not doing), allowing this scandal to have risen to the level it has. The Church thus far seems not to have gotten the message, and the pathetic excuses of some show an institutional tone-deafness that will simply not pass muster in a day and age wherethe Vatican can just bulldoze its message across an uninformed populace. People are speaking out, and the more the Church’s leadership delays what I think it knows deep down what it needs to do, it’s only going to get worse.

I know what you’re asking, because my Goodboys friends asked the same thing of me yesterday – Great White Shank, how can you even think of becoming a Roman Catholic with this kind of thing going on in they very church you plan on being received into just three weeks from now?

I’ll admit, this isn’t something I haven’t thought of myself; as I’ve said before in this very forum, I’ve made this decision with my eyes wide open, and not unaware of what’s going on around me. And any Roman Catholic with half a brain should be doing the same thing. I can’t speak for others – both Bill O’Reilly and Elizabeth Scalia have articulated their reasons in a far more eloquent way than I could ever do, but here is my two cents’ worth:

St. Paul once wrote that everyone needs to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and I have always taken those words to mean that, in the end, we all have choices to make, in a world where choices can be very difficult. The doctrine of free will, right? For me, my soul thirsts for the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist,my heart embraces the hard and wonderful teachings of Jesus in John 6:53-56:

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

…and the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings and beliefs on this are clear, unabashed, and not subject to debate or negotiation. It doesn’t lose sleep over whether you believe this teaching or not, and if you don’t that’s OK, there are plenty of other faiths and religions where you can go. Roman Catholicism is not for everyone, I’ll be the first to admit that. Like Jesus’ disciples replied to Him upon hearing his words: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

And that’s where it comes down to choices. Most certainly, the Church has, and continues to make, grevious mistakes in its practices and the way its human practicioners live out their lives and faith, but is that any different from you or I? Most surely, most of us have not, and do not, abuse children, but that doesn’t mean we all don’t find our own little comfortable and convenient ways of crucifying Christ in our daily lives. We may not abuse women, but that may not stop us from frequenting pornographic websites on the Internet that do; we may not abuse children, but we turn our backs on abused women and children every day in the choices we make when it comes to spending our money and time.

Like my friend and mentor Fr. Hendy Webb once began a sermon on Good Friday several years ago, “What have you done to crucify Christ today?”

I hope you see where I’m going here. We’re all pathetic and depraved sinners in God’s eyes. As well as we know our shortcomings as human beings, as our Creator God knows this in ourselves far more than we ever could. And just because a Church has ordained you as a priest doesn’t make you Christ Himself, doesn’t somehow silicone coat and protect you from your darkest impulses and the dragons in your dreams. I wish it were true, but let’s all grow up. Even the Pope goes to weekly confession, and I’m sure – like you and I – he needs it.

And that’s where I’m going with this on this Holy Saturday – we all, Church and non-church, religious and non-religious, saints and sinners, walk in lives dwarfed by the shadow of the Cross. We can choose, if we wish, to let the actions of any institution, even the Roman Catholic Church, distract our eyes from the Cross, but it always there. To thirst for the light amidst the darkness is not a Roman Catholic thing, it is the essence of our very humanity. You may not like your job, your family, your country, the human race you belong to, and yes, your church and how it has lived out its traditions and teachings over the past two thousand years, but you can’t take the easy way out. You still have a choice to make. And I’ve made mine.

In the end, we all walk in the darkness, thirsting for the light. A better day. A better place. A more peaceful world. A world without war, poverty, suffering, hunger, strife, and the abuse of human beings in every way, manner, shape, and form. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? And that’s the only place you’ll fine it. because it ain’t gonna happen here anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

There it is, the Cross again. You can’t avoid it. We all walk in its shadow. And in all its failures and abuses over two thousand years, the closest my soul can get to the true light of Christ is through the Roman Catholic Church, its sacraments, teachings, and traditions. It ain’t perfect – far from it – but frankly, neither am I. And neither are you. So we all make our choices and we live with them with a ‘God go with you’. My prayer for all of us this holy day.

And that’s the very essence of Holy Saturday.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 08:19 | Comments (0)
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