April 9, 2010

Be Our Guest / Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel

Despite current trials and tribulations, Christ’s vicar and his Church will rise again

(Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general and pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, delivered this homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 1.)

About this time last year, Pope Benedict XVI announced a Year for Priests. It began last June. It will conclude this June.

The Holy Father chose this particular year since last August marked the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests.

According to the Holy Father’s wishes—that we pray for priests—we have a basket here in front of the statue of the Curé of Ars. The basket contains names of priests we pray for during this Year for Priests.

Little did the Holy Father know a year ago how necessary prayer for priests would be at this time! The pope could not have predicted how he himself would be in need of prayers during this time. The priesthood, the bishops, now the papacy itself is again being dragged through the mud of the sex abuse scandals. This Holy Thursday 2010, the day we commemorate the institution of the priesthood—the sacrament of holy orders—the priesthood is under major attack.

Unfortunately, sin or betrayal in the priesthood is nothing new. Priests are only human; every priest is a sinner. And, at times, some priests have betrayed Christ in major ways. It’s been that way since “day one.”

Tonight, the Scriptures recall the Last Supper: Christ changes bread and wine into his Body and Blood. The Holy Eucharist is instituted. He calls his Chosen Twelve to serve his people. “Do this in memory of me” (1 Cor 11:24).

Our Lord empowers the Twelve to offer Mass; he institutes the sacrament of holy orders, the sacramental priesthood. We cannot forget: Judas was there. Judas was still one of these Twelve. Judas was a priest. In fact, Judas was a bishop! The one who betrayed Our Lord was one of his own.

And to this day, weakness among those in holy orders has continued. These past few years, it has come to light how some of Christ’s priests have broken sacred trust. Some of Christ’s own have betrayed the Good Shepherd and the most vulnerable among his sheep. They have used Christ in ways more despicable than even Judas himself.

And, what’s worse, some in authority over them looked the other way. They, too, not only betrayed the Good Shepherd, but also his sheep he had entrusted to their care. To discover such things today is enough to shake anyone’s faith. Yet, like it or not, sin among Christ’s priests is nothing new.

Betrayal among priests mars the face of Christ. Infidelity by his shepherds cannot help but affect the Good Shepherd himself. When Christ’s priests are unfaithful, Christ himself suffers. Given what people read or hear today about priests, no wonder they begin to doubt their faith.

Now, the agenda is to attack the vicar of Christ, the pope. Through sloppy reporting, creating false information, distorting timelines, plus outright lies, the Holy Father’s integrity is under suspicion. Media outlets are taking opinion polls on the pope. People are being asked to express opinions about his popularity, the pope’s credibility, and whether or not the pope should resign.

Well, recall the first opinion poll described in the Gospels. Our Lord himself lost that one. The crowds wanted Barabbas, a known criminal. Barabbas ran way ahead of Christ in that opinion poll.

Last Sunday, preaching in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Timothy Dolan compared these attacks on Benedict XVI to the ordeal of Jesus Christ on Good Friday denouncing “the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob and scourging at the pillar.”

Two thousand years later, the same technique used against our Lord himself works: take a grain of truth, distort the truth a bit, sprinkle it with delicious lies, then whip the crowds into a frenzy! Christ suffers again. Christ is crucified once again—this time in the person of his Church—in the person of his vicar on Earth.

We cannot lose hope. We are hurt, but not beaten. We are shocked at this mess, but Christ will triumph in the end. A bishop named Judas Iscariot caused indescribable harm to Christ. In recent times, priests or bishops, because of what they have done or what they failed to do, have caused much harm to Christ’s Body on Earth, the Church. But by no means is the majority guilty. The devil only requires a slight few to do his work of attacking Christ. But they have caused major damage.

Again, nothing new. Scripture has it all. After the Last Supper, while they were gathered in the Mount of Olives, our Lord prepared his Apostles for just this. He said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be dispersed’ ” (Mk 14:27).

That is precisely what happened. The power of evil struck the Good Shepherd. The sheep scattered. Their faith was shaken.

This is precisely what is happening now. Our chief shepherd is being struck by the power of evil. Many of the sheep find their faith shaken. Many of them will scatter.

In a time like this, we cannot forget the rest of the original story. Christ keeps his promise. He is raised up. Truth conquers evil lies. Christ’s Church continues to this day, his Real Presence among us. We cannot lose hope.

Unfortunately, Holy Thursday in this Year for Priests cannot be more upbeat. One of the sacraments that Christ instituted on Holy Thursday night has been damaged by the sins of a few. Holy orders is under attack. As Christ himself predicted, evil has struck the shepherd; the sheep scatter.

Evil threatens the credibility of Christ’s Church on Earth—evil wants to again knock the shepherd down. Christ has been there, done that. The Church of Jesus Christ has also. Evil inside or outside the Church is nothing new. Evil just keeps making itself more attractive, more tantalizing. Evil cannot win. Christ always wins.

On that first Holy Thursday, it sure didn’t seem like he would, but he did. The same is true this Holy Thursday. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

So will his Church. So will his vicar on Earth. Count on it. †

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