Saturday, May 3, 2008

Peter and Judas: hope in facing our problems

«What man loves comes to the surface in the face of problems, questions, and difficulties» (Msgr. Giussani).

At Clairity Daily, Sharon has a post, What Man Loves. In it, she reflects on "The Long March to Maturity," a 1972 talk by Don Giussani on the happenings of 1968 and the bewilderment that engulfed many of the most promising people involved in Communion and Liberation. There's a sensibility here that even our problems (especially our problems?) can be opportunities for hope, for trusting in the mercy of God toward sinners.

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Pope Benedict XVI visited America yesterday. What I mean is that the printed words of the pope's homilies became flesh for me yesterday when I got together with some friends to read them.

I was moved first of all by the clarion boldness of Benedict's opening words at Washington Nationals Stadium:

«"Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I great all of you in this Easter season.»

Jesus Christ risen from the dead speaks to us through Benedict. It is precisely this boldness in hope and faith in Jesus Christ which makes possible our hopes for a better day and gives us courage (a strengthening of the heart) to face our problems.

As apostolic witness, Benedict our father comes to us and witnesses to us about our history: our history as a Church — a people — born of the resurrection and Pentecost. In doing so, he reminds us that the origin, the spring, of all that is great about America, our promise, our hopes — is the same resurrection and Pentecost. «If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand wither. May my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem beyond all my delights» (Psalm 137).

«Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to “Christ our Hope”. Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope – the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan – that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.

It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.»

In "The Long March to Maturity," the one word that recurs along with bewilderment is betrayal: the betrayal of Christ — the betrayal of their very selves — by many in the movement. So, too, in the Church today there have been both bewilderment and betrayal. As sacramentally apostolic witnesses, the bishops bear the brunt of this bewilderment and betrayal (bewilderment for example due to the abdication of judgment to psychological experts; betrayal because they failed to be good fathers to children in the Church).

And yet the bishops are not our scapegoats: there is plenty of bewilderment and betrayal and shame for all Catholics in this country. What are we to make of the silence of Catholic journalists, writers, and lawyers before this story broke in the national media? Or maybe some of these died of poisoning like canaries in the mines? Were Bernanos, Andrew Greeley, J.F. Powers, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy warning us while we stopped up our ears? It would be interesting to re-read everything, looking for the signs of bewilderment and betrayal.

«What man loves comes to the surface in the face of problems, questions, and difficulties» (Msgr. Giussani).

What do we love? What comes to the surface in the face of these problems, these questions, these difficulties?

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