have never been one to ignore the elephant in the room, and I don’t plan to
start now. (The opinions stated here are mine and do not necessarily reflect
those of the vehicle through which you are reading this reflection.)
Roman Catholic Church, to which I belong, was rocked again by yet another sexual
abuse and cover-up scandal that defies description. I hear the rationalizations.
Yes, I know the incidence of abuse in the church is no different from that of
the general population. Yes, I know many organizations (and governments!) go to
great lengths to cover up their dirty laundry. And, yes, I am blessed to know
many wonderful, dedicated religious who suffer from this exposé far more than I
do. The good the church does in the world is exponentially more than those who
perpetrate unspeakable evil in her name.
this is the church, folks…the one that St. Paul tells us Christ loved and handed
himself over to sanctify so that she may be holy and without blemish. Should we
not be held to the higher standard we claim to hold? I can only imagine how
Christ suffers, how Christ bleeds on the cross on which we continue to nail
him--by these heinous crimes, yes, but also by the apathy and disinterest of
many in his Body, the Real Church, the people of God, when we choose to turn
away rather than to follow him to confront evil.
Perhaps this is the real crux of the problem. My faith is not in the institution
of Catholic Church, because if it was, I would be guilty of the sin of idolatry;
nor is it in the men who run the organization—they are sinners, just like me. My
faith is in Christ. The church that Christ died for is not at the Vatican, nor
in basilicas, nor in bishops’ residences. It is not “capital C” Catholic or
Protestant or Orthodox or Evangelical. Christ died to sanctify us all. When ‘we,
the people’ abdicate our responsibility and allow power to go unchecked--be it
in religion, government, business, or relationships--evil will have its way. It
is having its way. What do
Each of us has
to make our own decision. Some, like the disciples in today’s gospel, will walk
away—from the Catholic Church and from institutional religion; some from Jesus
as well, a God who “allows” such horror to happen. Many, I hope, will stay and
advocate for dramatic change in a very vocal and public way; others will pray
quietly for healing and renewal. Some will wait for the church to tell them what
to do, and still others will do nothing, too jaded at this point to even care.
My prayer for
myself and for the people of God is that we do not continue to ignore the evil
that has overtaken our institutions. Take time to discern how you will respond.
I know I need to turn directly to Jesus and his words of eternal life; not as
the Church interprets or mediates them, but as I hear them spoken by Jesus to
me. When I am judged, I will be judged on my own merit, not with a cadre of
erstwhile shepherds around me shaking in their own shoes; not on the basis of
whether I adhered to everything the leaders of my church or my government told
me. I will judged on whether I was Christ’s compassionate hands, feet, heart,
and mind to the least of my sisters and brothers. Was I true to the Spirit of
Jesus manifest in the gifts and the graces, the trials and the challenges I have
been given? Each of us must ask ourselves--and answer--this question every day.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of
heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to
those trying to enter.”(Mt
timing is impeccable, don’t you think? If we cannot rely on our shepherds right
now, leaders must emerge from the flock; leaders who have equal footing with
those good shepherds that remain, though disempowered by the sins of their
brethren. But what else can we do right now? Protect those closest to us by
showing a willingness to acknowledge and confront this evil. Ignoring it will
“We ask you, brothers
and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… not to be
shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit,’ or by
an oral statement.”
(2 Thes 2:1-3, 14-17)
Paul is warning the Thessalonians about slacking off due to the belief in the
imminent return of Christ. Some in their midst have decided there’s no reason to
continue working since Christ will be coming any day. We too, can “be shaken out
of our minds” due to what we see and hear happening around us. Paul says, ‘Keep
at it, don’t lose hope, don’t give up. Continue to work for the coming of the
Kingdom.’ Good advice for us as well.
“If anyone was
unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”(2
Thes 3:6-10, 16-18)
is admonishing those who have stopped working in anticipation of Christ’s
return. I’ve seen this passage used as justification for eliminating welfare,
but the two things don’t equate. There were probably a few Thessalonians
shirking responsibility using Christ’s return as an excuse, but their basis was
one of hope. And yes, there are some on the welfare rolls taking advantage of
the system, but the basis is one of hopelessness. When it’s all you’ve ever
known for generations, is it fair or merciful to just pull it away? All human
beings deserve to enjoy the dignity of work and to eat the fruits of their
labors, but a compassionate nation will first instill hope and provide help for
those who can work, and always provide for the needs of those who cannot.
is faithful...” (1 Cor
When people in
our lives fail us, when our cherished institutions betray our trust, it is good
to remember: “Do not trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no
salvation.” (Ps 146:3) God alone is faithful.
“… that the cross
of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”
(1 Cor 1:17-25)
is one of my favorite phrases from Scripture. Paul is speaking here of his own
preaching, and it’s an important message: No amount of eloquent speeches and
lofty writing can or should take the place of the cross as the center of our
faith. But I also have to look at how my daily life reflects the centrality of
the cross. Do my words and deeds (or lack thereof) ever serve to empty the cross
of its meaning for those who might not know Christ or those struggling with
faith? Faith of course is a grace, a gift from God, but we can help or hinder
that grace by the way we present Christ to the world. Consider how you live out
the call of the cross.
“God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to
reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast
before God.” (1 Cor
“You spent the first half of
your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is
really somebody.” (Ram
Dass) How are you called to be a “nobody” for Christ?
© 2017, Elaine H. Ireland. “Come and
Reflections are available at
To receive “Come and See” via email, send a request to
Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to
maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life.
She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral
Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental
psychology and spiritual guidance. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is
a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral
parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday
life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children,
David and Maggie.
We hope you
enjoy "Come and See!"
and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at
with questions, comments, and responses.
© 2009 - 2018, Elaine H. Ireland - Images@FaithClipart.com