August 26th Homily

Looking around at the people turning their backs on him, Jesus says to the apostles – his closest followers, “Do you also want to leave?”   ……….   They were free to walk away or walk with Jesus. From its very beginning to and including the present, there have always been scandals in the Church.  ……….   Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, Peter denied knowing Jesus, and Thomas doubted the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  One of Jesus parables speaks to the reality that there will always be saints as well as sinners in the church.

We have heard stories from Pennsylvania of how priests and bishops betrayed their vows, their church, and all too many innocents entrusted to their care.  I cannot and will not defend the indefensible.  The feelings and emotions that have been stirred up caused three quotations to come to mind.

o About people who harm and abuse children, Jesus says, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck be thrown into the sea.”   ……….

o Fourth Century Saint John Chrysostom said, “The roads in hell are paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”     ……….

o 11TH Century Saint Peter Damian wrote, “Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their s[priests] that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who [allow] those who practice them.”

Looking around at the people turning their backs on him, Jesus says to the apostles – his closest followers, “Do you also want to leave?” ……….     “These crimes dishonor and offend God, and they wound the Church in a unique way.”   The power, prestige, and privilege of the clergy of the Church has led to the laity putting the clergy and the clergy putting themselves on pedestals. ……….   We don’t deserve pedestals. We are supposed to serve.

You do have the right to expect – to DEMAND – more from Bishops, Priests, and Deacons who are called by God to bring HOLY order to the Church and not scandal.  ……….     “Does this shock you?”  Jesus asks in today’s gospel. ………..   Yes it does  ………….

Looking around at the people turning their backs on him, Jesus says to the apostles – his closest followers, “Do you also want to leave?” ……….    I have to be honest.  Sometimes, I feel like walking away.  But here why I will not and you ought not give up.  ……….

Remember to not lose hope or give into despair. Jesus began the Church because we need it.  He knows that we can’t make it on our own.  Jesus never has and never will give up on the Church.  He promised, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  Jesus gives us his very self when we receive his Body and Blood in communion.  When we give up – if we walk away – we let the side of evil win.  It is we ourselves who suffer.  ……….

One month ago we heard these words of Saint Paul, “Live a life worthy of the calling you are received.”  We are all called to be holy, to live in such a way that people can see that God makes a difference.  Renewal in the Church comes best from men, women, and children who take their faith seriously.  I have been much more inspired in my priesthood by the faith of lay people and their families than I have been by men of the cloth.   Saint Paul also wrote, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.”

Our faith must always be in Jesus Christ.  We can always count on him because – as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us – “Jesus is the same: yesterday, today, and forever.”  My faith isn’t in a pope, bishop or priest. ……….   As much as I love her, my faith isn’t in the Church. ……….   My faith is in God who created,  redeemed, and sustains us.  ……….

The scandals and shortcomings of bishops and priests have caused many to leave the Church.   The question for us today is, “Do you also want to leave?”

Our readings today give us two very good answers to that question that we can make today:

o These words of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

o These words of Peter. “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of everlasting life.”


What answer will you give Jesus who asks you, “Do you also want to leave?”