Hello everyone. With this video we at the Archdiocese are beginning a new approach to support you in reading and following Sacred Scripture. Now as we were planning for this, some dark and terrible news overtook the church. We heard of the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury detailing decades of horrifying sexual abuse of minors by clergy, sometimes terribly mismanaged by bishops. We also heard of the egregiously immoral conduct of an American Cardinal, and suggestions that many had known of this for years. even at the Vatican. There was also made public a letter written by a former Papal Nuncio, accusing the Holy Father of having known of the Cardinal’s immorality and not acting to strip him of his Cardinals rank until credible and substantiated allegations of the abuse of a minor were made. This perfect storm leaves us all reeling as we deal with shock, anger, shame and confusion. So for this first video I thought I would bring this issue into dialogue with the Word of God so there we might find the light and the direction that we need right now. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, wondering what text from sacred scripture to use, and what I’d like to focus upon is the road to Emmaus story, given to us by Saint Luke. I just finished retreat with the priests of the Archdiocese and that was the final text presented to us by our retreat director. As I was reading and praying over the account it occurred to me that there’s elements of that story that speak directly to our current situation. So when you can read over the text. It’s found in the 24th chapter of St. Luke, verses 13 to 35 and you know the story well. The passage narrates the appearance of the risen Jesus to two disciples as they walk along the road leading to the village of Emmaus. Jesus enters their dialogue and He interprets scripture to them, at their urging. He breaks bread with them at which time their eyes are opened, they recognized Jesus, He vanishes from their sight and they returned to Jerusalem. Now as you read and pray with the text there are a few points to which I invite you to pay close attention. First notice where the disciples are in relation to the city of Jerusalem. We’re told that they’re still in the vicinity of the city and they’re moving away from it, and that’s very important. Jerusalem is the city where Jesus fulfilled His destiny as the savior of the world, it’s the place where He died and rose again the local where He, as risen Lord, bestowed the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and fashioned the church. It’s the city from which those same apostles were sent in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the good news of salvation by both word and witness. Jerusalem, in other words, is the geographical center of salvation history. It’s the place from which hope bursts forth unto the world. But that is not the way these two disciples experienced Jerusalem. They tell Jesus, when they don’t yet recognize Him, that in Jerusalem their chief priests and leaders had handed Jesus over to death and crucified Him. Now the verb here, handover, can also be translated as betrayal. So Jerusalem and their experience is the place not of hope, but of betrayal by chief priests and leaders. Even worse as we know by Apostles. Particularly Judas by a kiss, and the leader Peter, by his three fold denial. This betrayal robbed them of any hope. “We had hoped”, they said. But instead now they’re deeply discouraged. We’re experiencing the same thing right now. The church is established by Christ Himself as the place, the agent of hope. Yet for many it has been experienced as the place of betrayal. Precisely by some of our chief priests and leaders. This betrayal has been felt most keenly and painfully by abuse victims of course and by their families. It extends as well to the whole people of God, and it’s ultimately a betrayal of Christ Himself, Who calls and appoints the ordained to act in His name and be instruments of His love and compassion. So what happened next to those two disciples in their disillusionment is an important indication of what has to happen next with us in ours. Jesus comes up beside them on the road and He inserts Himself into the conversation. He listens and then He directs them to Sacred Scripture, pointing out to them everything there that pertains to Himself, and they would recall later how their hearts had been burning within them as listened. The pain and disillusionment were giving way to hope. We too are talking among ourselves about terrible events, and we can be sure that Jesus is inserting Himself into our conversations. He simply will not leave us in despair, but wants to enlighten our understanding with His Word and help us to find hope. Notice to that the disciples were moving away from Jerusalem because of their disillusionment. Many people today are strongly tempted, because of their hurt and anger, to walk away from the Church. I understand that. But what does Jesus ask of us? Those disciples asked Him to remain with them and He did. Showing at the same time how He would remain with His Church henceforth. In His Word, and in the sacraments above all in the Eucharist. Recognizing this the disciples went back to Jerusalem. In other words they went back to the community of fellow Christians and disciples. What do we draw from this? Well like those disciples we asked Jesus to remain always with us, and at the same time by showing us that He is present in Word and sacrament, Jesus asks us to remain with Him, in His Church. Now when the disciples returned to Jerusalem they went back with one very important change that we must not miss. They went back with their eyes having been opened, to recognize the abiding presence of Jesus. Here’s the particular Grace for which we need to pray right now, to remain with the Church, and to do so with our eyes opened. Opened wide. They need to be opened wide by Christ first of all, so that we continue to recognize His presence with us and to retain that as our principal focus. And when our eyes are wide open to Christ, there are other things that come clearly into our view. Right now we’re seeing the presence of evil in our midst, and the evil we see is very great indeed. And how are we to look at it? Well first of all we need to see and face squarely the immeasurable harm that this evil has done to the victims of abuse. Yes we know that the accounts brought to our attention by the Grand Jury Report are decades old, yes we know that the way these things were understood and handled in the past is not the way that they’re dealt with now. But for the victim, the harm that was caused, even if it was a long while ago, has effects that are life long. So the gaze we direct toward them must be with eyes filled with compassion and expressive of a readiness to do whatever needs to be done to help and heal. We also have to have eyes wide open to the causes of all this. This will mean a readiness to ask direct and tough questions. It will mean launching investigations where needed, and these inquiries will need to involve lay persons with the expertise to do these sorts of things. These questions and investigations will enable our eyes to be wide open to the truth, to the facts, and this in turn will help us to see clearly the way ahead. Finally we need to ask the Lord to keep within our field of vision the great good that continues to be done by the Church. I’m thinking of the many deacons, priests, and bishops who haven’t done any of the terrible things we’ve heard about. Who are just as rocked as everybody else by this news, and who strive day in and day out to serve the people entrusted to their care. I think two of the many faithful religious women, and men, who’ve laid down their lives in the service of God’s people. Often heroically. Of the countless laypeople involved in the mission of the Church through parish and diocesan ministries, or various associations dedicated to growth in faith and to the care of the needy. My mind’s eye goes to families who continue to bring their children up in the faith and who draw from the Church the solace and the direction that they need to face their daily struggles. Many times I see the great good that our Catholic schools bring to our students. The comfort that our Catholic hospitals give to the sick. The consolation and hope brought to the needy by Catholic Social Services. With eyes wide open to Christ, we see clearly the need for reform and are called to face it resolutely, yes. We also see that the Church is simply not to be defined by the sins and crimes of some of Her leaders, however egregious. The Church is the people formed by the encounter with the risen Christ. Who remains with us. Who heals us. Reforms us, and strengthens us, as we walk along the road that leads not away from Him but towards anyone in need, and ultimately toward the heavenly Jerusalem. Our eternal home. God bless.