The One Who Sees Us Through Disaster

Happy Transfiguration Day. This coming Sunday, at Holy Mass we will read…

The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:24-31)

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Christ at the Sea of Galilee, School of Tintoretto

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

The God-man walked on water. He can overcome gravity, since He invented gravity. This man stands at the center of the life of His Church. He remains with us, offering us the same strong hand He offered St. Peter.

We need it. Not just individually, but as a community of Christians. Because gravity does not appear to be on our side.

What has happened here? With our communities already deeply compromised by the virus, our bishop has intervened in the life of our parishes–not help them, but to wreck them. He takes a priest—admittedly kind of an annoying goofball, but who nonetheless can show up for work every day—he takes me and throws me in the dumpster. We try to reason with him, and with his superiors, and we get absolutely nowhere.

What is going on?

It’s actually not that big a mystery. Over the second half of the twentieth century, an incredibly talented New Yorker with a moral blind spot the size of the Sea of Galilee became a highly prominent Church politician. He connived his way into becoming the pope of New Jersey. Then he maneuvered himself into the College of Cardinals and became the confidante of three popes.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount

Meanwhile, Theodore McCarrick left behind him a wide trail of broken souls. Every time the man celebrated Holy Mass, surrounded by sycophants trying to please him, he delivered another painful blow to his victims.

Wait. Every time he celebrated Mass. But isn’t this Jesus Christ’s holy Presence with us? The Mass?

We need big, big faith. Because Yes, it is His Presence. Yes, Jesus Christ does stand at the center of the life of His Church. Jesus can lead us through this disaster. We need to have enough faith to believe that. Because this disaster is bigger than what we think we can deal with.

We little Rocky Mounters and Martinsvillians find ourselves caught up in a heavy drama. The man who ordained me had made it basically impossible for the people he hurt to continue to believe in the Holy Mass. And to continue to believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that celebrates the Mass.

They went to Pope John Paul II for help, and he did not believe them. Benedict XVI believed them, but he wanted to keep the whole thing hush-hush. Then Pope Francis chose mercy for his friend, Theodore McCarrick, over justice and healing for McCarrick’s victims.

McCarrick was not the only one with a moral blind spot the size of Lake Como. They had a blind spot in the Apostolic Palace in Rome, also.

The thing is this: Every time a priest who abused you says Mass, and no one stops him, and everyone acts as if everything is holy and normal, you feel something far worse than a five-fingered death punch to the face. You feel like a demon-sized lie has pinned your truth to the mat on the lowest floor in hell, like a sumo wrestler crushing your ribcage.

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God must not care.

But He does. The Mass is the Holy Mass of Christ crucified.

We will have to face the fact that three popes presided over a colossal institutional failure. The institution failed so magnificently that we will have to admit that we never knew Satan was so smart. We never knew anyone, even Satan, could orchestrate something so damaging to the Christian faith.

Here in the U.S., a lot of us thought the Church saved Her credibility with the bureaucratic maneuvers of 2002, after the Boston Globe blew the lid off decades of priestly sex-abuse cover-ups. But we will have to face the fact that the lies just moved farther up the chain-of-command that year. After all, the man who called the shots in 2002 was Theodore McCarrick.

All this horribleness has now rained down pain and confusion in our little bucolic corner of southwest Virginia. It will get worse before it gets better, uglier before it beautifies.

We will have to remember that the Lord Jesus endured a series of unimaginably agonizing hours. He suffered blows and lashes and wounds all over His sacred Body. He bled from everywhere. He has drawn us into this, in our interior lives.

But He lives. We need big, big faith. He conquered all that agony, and He will reconcile us all to Himself. Truth can seem to wound. But, in the end, it heals, restores, and brings real peace.

Jesus Christ, brutally tortured and crucified to death, risen again from the dead, and present with us. The man Who pulled St. Peter out of the water. He stands at the center of the life of His Church. He stands there, immovable, full of love.