Fr. Vaccaro’s Homily given at Nativity Catholic Church in Burke Virginia.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me. When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him. Today, these words from the Psalm ring with greater depth as I preach: a homily in time of distress.
As many of you know, over the past weeks, there has been a lot of news about sexual abuse in our Catholic Church: horrible, monstrous, demonic abuse perpetrated by, and covered up by, clergy, priests and bishops and cardinals. For all people of faith, for us Catholics, this has stirred up many reactions: rage and frustration that this was allowed to happen, horror at the type of crime, deep deep sorrow for the victims, most of whom were young and vulnerable, a sense of unspeakable betrayal, a violation of trust.
As a priest, I share all of that. But, I also accept some share in the guilt: I am a priest, I took the same vows as those men, we a bonded by Holy Orders, and so I am implicated in their crimes. My heart breaks: I know the trust that people, especially children put in their priests, and to see it violated, so horribly and for so long and for so many, I can’t even begin to express my sorrow for what my brothers have done.
But, I am sorry, and know that I, and all priests, beg your mercy. We are all, at least in this Diocese, called by our Bishop to penance, for the sins of our fallen brothers. We have to pay that price.
Like the Psalmist says, we are in a time a distress. In a world where the Church is supposed to stand for something, it’s supposed to be better, to see She is populated by, worse led by, horrible criminals, broken people, ones who have taken advantage of the trust of the faithful for their own gain, what are you,
Catholics, to do? You, are angry. I can imagine this has crossed your mind: if this is how the Church acts, then I want no part of it. I don’t fault anyone for that reaction. But, today, in these days of distress, I want to offer a spiritual reflection on another way forward.
As I think over the darkness of these days, my heart is brought back to the darkest of days: Good Friday. On that day, the world fell apart. The Savior of the world, He who said He was God, hung beaten and bloodied on a cross, dying naked like a common criminal.
His followers, the Twelve, who had been given special authority, had enjoyed the limelight of being with Christ in his popularity, each of whom had been entrusted much, had vowed they would stay faithful to end, where were they? 11 of the 12 walked away: broke their vow, literally turned their back on God. The people who had come to believe in Jesus, seeing Him broken, and then watching the men, the Apostles, in whom they had trusted, whom they were willing to trust as men of God, set apart, walk away, violate everything they had preached, the crowd turned away.
If this is what Christ is all about, let’s go. They walked away. Today, in this time, we are right there on Calvary. Betrayed, angry, afraid this is the end, ashamed of the Church as we watch our Apostles betray everything, as it seems Christ fades into the darkness because the sins of His followers have extinguished His light once and for all. We are Tempted to walk away, too.
But, while we stand here on on Calvary, before we turn and go, Christ Crucified calls us to remember something amazing. The night before He died, the night He was betrayed by these Apostles, He sat down and with them and He celebrated the first Mass. Knowing that these men, 11 of his 12 closest friends would leave Him, betray Him, He offered them, not just bread and wine, a passing meal: He offered them Himself, everything, His Body broken and His Blood poured out, He offered the price He paid. And, it wasn’t because Jesus was a fool, that he didn’t know what was coming. He was God: He knew what lay ahead on Good Friday, in all of it’s horror. And, He knew that in the centuries to come, the horror of Good Friday would be repeated over and over again: Apostles would sin, violate their vows, Crucify Him, and lead countless people to flee from His Church because of their evil decisions. He knew, on that Holy