A challenging time
Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection for Christians, a time for some spiritual self-examination and stock taking when we focus on the suffering and death of Jesus, in order that we might more fully celebrate his victory over sin and death at Easter. But we find ourselves once again at a time of deep disquiet within the Catholic Church family. Two weeks ago, a French Cardinal, Phillippe Barbarin was found guilty by a French court of covering up the abuse of minors by a priest in his diocese in the 1980’s and 90’s while in Australia Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for the abuse of choir boys. Cardinal Pell’s case is far from cut and dried and is the subject of a legal appeal, we might do well to await the outcome of that appeal before rushing to judgment. If he is guilty and this verdict is upheld he must face the full rigours of the law as any wrong-doer, but serious legal minds in Australia and beyond are raising questions about the manner in which the entire case has been handled. The court of appeal will have the last word.
Lent invites us to step back from the merry-go-round of daily activities that we all get caught up in, to take a look at our priorities, the choices we make and the ‘why’ behind them.
We are invited to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask the question ‘Do I like what I see? Am I on the way to becoming the person I really want to be, or have I drifted hopelessly off course?’ Lent invites us to trim our sails and adjust to the right destination. The church as an institution must do the same.
There is much anger in our church, anger at an institution that seems stubbornly resistant to any meaningful reform. People are genuinely broken-hearted by the ongoing scandals that seem to stalk us. That anger can itself be a gift of the Holy Spirit enkindling a passion that can be the catalyst for real change. The Institution that is the Church is in urgent need of remodelling, that work can only be achieved by committed individuals aligned to the mind of Christ. Lent calls us back to basics, to the health of our faith relationship with Jesus himself.
When St. Francis of Assisi received his call from God he heard the words ‘Go and rebuild my church’, in 2019 that call echoes for all of us. We are the church.
Fr. Philip Curran