Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: 2 Sam 13:7-13; Gal 2:16-21; Lk 6:36-50

In the cycle of this liturgical year we have finished the stretch of Sundays which celebrate the great beliefs of our Christian faith—Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Body and Blood of Christ and the Sacred Heart. The whole substance of our Christian faith can be found in these feastdays. Now we begin a long stretch of what is called Ordinary Time. Of course, it’s anything but ordinary. It’s a period in which we are to seek to apply to our lives those fundamental Christian beliefs. Instead of Ordinary Time, it should more appropriately be called Application Time.

I recently read an article which would serve as an excellent introduction to this stretch of Application Time. The article is actually a portion of an address given by the Honorable Anne Burke, a justice of the Illinois State Supreme Court, to the students and faculty of St. Xavier University in Chicago. The article was entitled, "Truth Shall Set us Free." Anne Burke was also the Chairperson of the United States’ Catholic Bishops National Review Board, set up to monitor the bishops’ compliance with the guidelines for dealing with childrens’ sex abuse cases. The quote is a little long, but worth it.

"Let me be very clear. Truthfulness would have stopped the tragedy of sexual abuse by the clergy. Truthfulness would have prevented the erosion of faith for many in the aftermath. Truthfulness would have helped victims when they reported abuse, and it would have brought a healing and dignity to those most hurt by going unheard or vilified for years. And truthfulness would have stopped the crisis brought on by the financial settlements that have already bankrupted some dioceses in our nation. Truthfulness, I believe, would have made the task before our National Review Board less painful for our own lives; it would have made some of the leaders we spoke to more believable, less threatened, and maybe less culpable. Truthfulness would have prevented some bishops from trying to deceive even those of us on the National Review Board. Although they had charged our Board with overseeing their compliance with the reforms they had pledged to institute, some of them tried to sabotage our work because they couldn’t control it." (US Catholic, June 2010, p. 33)

I would say: that’s laying it on the line. But I don’t want to talk about truthfulness in the clergy sex abuse crisis. I’d rather reflect on the place of truthfulness in our personal spiritualities. It’s one of the most neglected aspects in trying to build a good, healthy spirituality. Truthfulness encompasses two steps. The first is acknowledging and accepting in our mind and heart the reality of "what is." That’s not easy. We can ignore reality, especially about ourselves, so easily. We can have such blind spots about our intentions and actions. The second step is being able to say, to put into words, the truth we have acknowledged. That’s hard to do as well. We may very well know something to be true, but we won’t say anything about it. I remember years ago when I was spiritual director for one of the seminary students at St. Meinrad. He was having a hard time speaking about the most obvious things about himself. We tried to explore the reasons for this. Eventually it became known that his father was an alcoholic. But no one in the family would ever say anything about it, even though it was causing all sorts of family problems. He described it in a colorful way. He said it was like there was a huge pink elephant lying on the couch in their living room. But nobody would ever ask why it was there. People would walk around it, bring other chairs to sit on, but no one ever said anything about the pink elephant. The unwillingness to speak about what everybody knew to be the case was causing all kinds of related problems in other members of the family.

If we are going to grow in our spiritual lives. If we are going to use well this Application Time of the liturgical year, the virtue of truthfulness will need to accompany us every step of the way. Let’s take a moment to pray for the gift of that virtue.

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