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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Our Shared Pain The Fifth Sunday in Lent

                                                          Our Shared Pain

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 3, 2022

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Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11



   This story of the woman who was brought before Jesus at the Temple teaches us that we are not to make definite, condemnatory judgments about the behavior of others and that we must learn what mercy means. This is a hard task for us when we consider the recent history of sexual abuse within the church in Boston these past twenty years. This weekend marks the anniversary of the Dallas Charter in which Bishops legislated punishments and sanctions against priests who violate the charter. The message is clear. The protection of minors and vulnerable adults is sacrosanct to the church and reforms in the church’s customary way of proceeding needs constant examination. Cardinal O’Malley, one of the chief architects of the Vatican’s task of safeguarding children, is preaching this weekend in Hull, where incidences of priestly abuse is a part of their history. Cardinal O’Malley continues to work to make the worldwide church safer for all people and is deserving of our gratitude.


          The church’s history with sexual abuse in Boston and across the world is shameful, and it is tragic that so much harm was done to far too many people through once-trusted leaders in the faith. There are many victims who are no longer with us and for whom no reconciliation may take place. There are people who have abandoned the church, and it is our hope that their faith is still engaged in some way. It is an invisible wound that many victims and their families carry silently, and there are many survivors who are still reconciling the sins that were done to them. If we could only further along the process of healing, we would be on the right track, but the church first must show integrity, clean up its house, raise its standards, and give the people a reason to trust with wisdom, prudence, and maturity. We all must examine our thoughts and consider who do we want to be as church – compassionate, full of mercy, contrite, sorrowful? We need to adopt an attitude of Christ who weeps for Jerusalem and whose heart is moved whenever anyone suffers and is in pain. 


          In recent years, some areas of the church have moved in the direction of increased clericalism, rigorism, fascination with the documents and authority, devotion to liturgical peculiarities, or elitism. These conditions lead to an increase of abuse of all types. We have to stop, to reflect, and then to pivot in order to become a church to one where its ordained members are servant-leaders who are responsive to the people’s pastoral needs. We must accept the maturity of Vatican II and move past the fascination with the medieval church practices and models of the Scholastics and the Council of Trent. We must speak up when a relationship does not seem right, and we cannot allow church leaders to dismiss us or to allow ourselves to be patronized as if we do not matter or have any value. As the People of God, we must end the cycles of authoritarian rule so that church leaders see themselves as servants of the people who are entrusted with a sacred duty to provide us the sacraments – and for our care. The Church exists to share the Word of God, the Good News, with people who are ready to hear it, and to build a community based upon mutual concern for the common good and for one’s well-being. It is a community of forgiveness, tolerance, and understanding because we know life is hard and we have to depend upon the goodness of others to get us through the day and to show us the way to God. The church has to be God’s love in action.


          We are entering later Lent and Holy Week starts a week from now with Palm Sunday. This is a good time for us to pray for the conversion of our own hearts that we hold anyone who is carrying pain for abuses from the church with tenderness and gentleness, and we must try to understand a person’s struggles. As Jesus moves towards his trial, betrayal, denial, Passion and Death, let us learn from him how he accompanies people in their sorrow. Then let us treat others likewise. Let us stand in solidarity with God who lives with an eternally broken heart. We have to be vulnerable enough to let our hearts be broken by honoring the stories of others – and of ourselves. Let us learn to lift one another up and stand in solidarity with each person just as Jesus did with the woman who was sinned against by society and the elders. Let us offer each other mercy and help each other hold our heads high because no one can ever take away from us the inherent dignity we have as a child of God. No one. Know and believe in your hearts that God holds you in great dignity and esteem. May our church learn to do the same. 


May God bless you on your Lenten journey, and may the Spirit guide the church to become a community of justice and peace, of harmony and reconciliation, a people of healing and liberation.


Scripture for Daily Mass


Monday: (Daniel 13) Daniel’s sharp advocacy skills spare the life of Susannah who has been unjustly accused of immoral sexual relationships.


Tuesday: (Numbers 21) As the wandering Israelites passed through the desert near the Red Sea, many are bitten by seraph serpents, but Moses erected a bronze serpent that he lifted up for those bitten to gaze upon the image and be cured. 


Wednesday: (Isaiah 7) Annunciation: Ahaz is tempted by the Lord to ask for a sign but he will not. The Lord gives it anyways: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son named Emmanuel.


Thursday: (Genesis 17) The Lord said to Abraham: You are to become the father of a host of nations. You will become fertile; kings will stem from you.   


Friday: (Jeremiah 20) Terror on every side. Let us denounce him. The Lord is with me like a mighty champion.


Saturday: (Ezekiel 37) My dwelling shall be with my people. I will be their God and they shall be my people.   



Monday: (John 8) A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus for a verdict, but he does not answer as he calls upon those who are without sin to cast the first stone. 


Tuesday: (John 8) Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will lift up the Son of Man and will then realizes that I AM. 


Wednesday: (Luke 1) Gabriel was sent to Mary of Nazareth to inform her that she has been chosen by the Lord to bear a son who will be called holy, the Son of God.


Thursday: (John 8) Whoever keeps my words will never see death. Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.


Friday: (John 10) The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus, but he wanted to know for which of the works he was condemned. He went back across the Jordan and remained there.


Saturday: (John 11) Many came to believe in Jesus. Caiaphas asked, “do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people?”


Saints of the Week


There are no saints celebrated in the Roman calendar this week.


This Week in Jesuit History


  • April 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society. 
  • April 4, 1534. Peter Faber (Pierre Favre) ordained a deacon in Paris. 
  • April 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lallemant, writer and spiritual teacher. 
  • April 6, 1850. The first edition of La Civilta Cattolica appeared. It was the first journal of the restored Society. 
  • April 7, 1541. Ignatius was unanimously elected general, but he declined to accept the results. 
  • April 8, 1762. The French Parliament issued a decree of expulsion of the Jesuits from all their colleges and houses. 
  • April 9, 1615. The death of William Weston, minister to persecuted Catholics in England and later an author who wrote about his interior life during that period.

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