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September 2, 2018
[St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Church, Mililani (with marriage convalidations)]
Our Catholic Church is in one of the greatest storms in its history. Many clergy, who were trusted by others because they were presumed to be spiritual leaders, have sexually abused minors. Many bishops, who are presumed to be men of integrity, have covered up the abuse – and some have been abusers themselves. And now, an Archbishop who had great responsibilities both in the Vatican and as the Pope’s official representative to the United States, has written a shocking exposé, naming the names of many American bishops and priests, and the names of many high ranking Vatican officials, including the Pope himself, whom he believes have participated in such corruption that it scandalizes us all. People are very justifiably angry and want not just routine apologies but real reform that changes the corruptions of a culture. Some are so disillusioned that they have left the Catholic Church. Some, who left the Catholic Church a long time ago for whatever reason – or for no reason at all – are now farther distanced from the Body of Christ. Most devastated of all are the men and women who have become victims of this scandalous behavior from men who say they are preaching about the commandments of God but are living by their own commandments rather than God’s. As Jesus railed against the Pharisees who complained that his disciples did not follow man-made ritual laws, how much more does he rail against those who have so grievously offended young men and women, very often robbing them of faith itself?
There is much collateral damage. The majority of priests and -- dare I say? – bishops who are faithful and dedicated are being painted with the broad brush of this scandal of lust and corruption. Priests are now more afraid than ever to work with youth, at a time when youth very much need good pastoral care and guidance. Those who are enemies of the Church because they cannot stomach what the Church teaches about the sanctity of all life from conception until natural death, or about the nature of marriage between one man and one woman, or the Church which calls us all to chastity according to our way of life, are now rejoicing because so many of the teachers have violated the teachings, thus undermining the Church’s prophetic voice. A culture of trust is replaced with a culture of suspicion. If someone were planning to ruin the Church – and believe me, Satan has been planning to do so since it first began – could there be a more brilliant plot to do so than the one we have seen exposed in the last weeks and year?
Yet here you are, still faithfully coming to worship the Lord. Here are these couples who are ready to pledge their love to each other even in the midst of this horrendous hurricane of scandal and hurt and disillusionment. Perhaps as we celebrate them and their love, they can teach us something about today’s Scriptures. And while I apologize to you couples who came to celebrate such a joyful occasion and not to hear of the scandals in the Church, perhaps we can prevail upon you to be the witness to Jesus we all need at this moment.
Most of you have been civilly married already, and you are probably aware of each other’s faults and failings as well as each other’s virtues and love. Yet you come here today to change this from “I decided to enter this relationship” to “God has called the two of us to be one in Him.” You are moving from doing it your way to doing it God’s way. This, of course, is God’s constant call, which we see in the Gospel today.
Moreover, you are doing something that many people in today’s throw-away culture would consider absurd: pledging your love to each other for as long as you both shall live, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health. You are publicly pledging before God and his beloved Church that you will not walk away from each other when times are difficult, but will take up your crosses and stay with each other through thick and thin. You witness the kind of loyalty and fidelity that we all need to Jesus Christ, who loves his Church so much that he considers us his bride, whom he will not leave even in the midst of our sinfulness and infidelities. And you challenge us not to walk away ourselves from the Bride of Christ, the Church, because it is Jesus alone who can heal her of all her infidelities by the guidance of his Holy Spirit. It is Jesus alone who can purify us in the truth, because he is the Truth.
You also witness to us that we are called to be fruitful and to multiply, the very first commandment God gave to the human race. Whether you are yet to bear more children or whether you nurture in a new way the children or grandchildren God has entrusted to you, you witness that life goes on even when it is messy, even when it is difficult, and even when there is tremendous hurt. You remind us that even in the midst of this storm, Jesus gives us the ability to walk on water if we keep our eyes fixed on him and do not falter in our mission of sharing his Good News with others, even in the midst of a horrendous hurricane of scandal. You are living, breathing examples to us, that in the end it is only love that matters and only faithful love that heals. You teach us by your courageous pledge today that our human laws can easily be distorted and corrupted, while the true law of God that is planted within each of our hearts, will prevail over all evil in the end.
And so at this moment, even though our hearts are heavy, we lift them up to the Lord to give him thanks and praise. We thank him for calling you at this moment to be our witnesses to hope and our models of the divine fidelity between bridegroom and bride. And we pray that your faithful love will be fruitful and multiply and reach the ends of the earth.