Bringing light to darkness

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | September 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

“Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light” (Eph 5:12-14).

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

All of us have felt the pain of the “works of darkness” which have once again come to light in our Church. Just when it seemed like locally the clouds were beginning to part as the archdiocese’s bankruptcy was coming to an end, the clouds descended again. We were horrified by the terrible stories of abuse in Pennsylvania and the widespread corruption that seems to surround the life of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Now the accusations of cover-up have enveloped the Holy Father himself. I know many of you, like me, have felt shaken and overwhelmed.

Although the feelings of anger, hurt and discouragement are justified and need to be acknowledged, we also need to remember how God works. God always brings good out of evil. The truth is that the clouds always seem darkest when the light shines on them, and the only way the healing of this cancer of sexual immorality in our Church can ever come is through the light shining on it. For too long the shame of sexual abuse in our Church has been carried in the dark and alone by victims/survivors. Now it is time for all of us in the Church to carry it, perhaps especially her clergy and, most especially, her bishops. I willingly stand in the darkness of this shame because I want the healing of victims and the purification of the Church. I believe that this shame coming into the light is a great good, because I want the Church to face her own darkness so that she can heal.

Of course we need practical reform in the Church, especially to create structures of accountability for bishops, whether for allegations of their own sexual immorality or their failure to act appropriately in response to allegations against others. As I have stated elsewhere, I think that there needs to be independent lay-led means developed to investigate these issues and review them. But we also need holiness, which always comes through repentance and spiritual purification. Only when we repent for our sins, and do the penance necessary to heal the wounds, can new life come.

We need to learn to see the wisdom of the cross. The cross was a great evil. When the Son of God came to earth to reveal the love of the Eternal Father, we human beings hung him up on a tree to die. Yet he turned this great act of evil into the greatest gift for us. Through the suffering love of Christ, through his self-gift, the cross became a source of love and redemption for us. The cross teaches us that God’s greatest power is the ability to bring good out of evil. If we learn to receive God’s love in our darkness, even darkness can become a source of life. As St. Paul said so clearly in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

All things? Even our own sins? Even the sins of bishops? This is the profound truth Jesus teaches us through his death and resurrection: There is nothing so evil that it cannot be taken up by God and turned into a potential good. All evil brought into the light of the merciful love of God can become a good. This is the truth of healing, healing for victims/survivors, healing for our Church. The healing begins to happen when we are not afraid to bring the shadows into the light and try to see with God’s merciful eyes.

What must we do as we carry this shame? We must acknowledge what we feel. As the psalms teach us, we should not be afraid to acknowledge our deep feelings to God in prayer. Acknowledging our feelings is the first step to bringing them into the light of God, so we can begin to see with his eyes. As we keep praying, we will begin to see how God is bringing good. We will receive from God his way of seeing.

One good I already see is the 90 men for whom I am privileged to serve for four months as interim rector of the St. Paul Seminary. They continue to pursue priesthood in the face of this shadow over the Church because they desire to live holiness and give an authentic witness to the truth of Christ’s love. They inspire me to do the same. I see this same inspiration in the holy lives of many of our lay people. In fact, in the history of the Church some of the greatest saints have come from her darkest times.

If there are more shadows to be exposed, may they be exposed. I would rather live in a Church that is humbled and purified than one that is happy and numb. I believe that God will bring great good out of this evil, as Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist prophesied, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).

Llevando la luz a la oscuridad

 

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Category: Only Jesus