Getting ready for Monday’s Daily Mass homily, I didn’t have a lot of time to prep, and the Gospel with the healing of the blind man is always a favorite that I didn’t read the first reading. Seeing it was from Revelation, which is a pretty complicated scripture to delve into in a 2 minute daily Mass homily also didn’t help.
That’s probably why I was a bit taken aback when the reading was proclaimed. Particularly in light of the ongoing fall-out over the crimes, the cover-ups of former Archbishop McCarrick and other clerical sex abuse scandals that have devastated all of us. The lines that hit me were:
Yet I hold this against you:
you have lost the love you had at first.
Realize how far you have fallen.
Repent, and do the works you did at first.
Otherwise, I will come to you
and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
Rev 2: 4-5
You have lost the love you had at first. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the Church in Ephesus to receive this letter from John and read those words from the Lord directed to them.
Close to 2,000 years later, and knowing that the Word of God is alive, and that the proclamation of the scriptures at Mass is Christ speaking to us here and now – those lines stayed with me all afternoon. Hopefully these words penetrated the hearts and minds of many in the Church at daily Masses around the globe. Who is the Lord calling out like this? Who is the Lord directing them too?
I know, I know… it’s easy to make a list of understandable targets. That self-righteousness isn’t particularly helpful. So I sit with it myself.
I don’t feel that I have lost the love I had for Christ, for His Church, for His people. I honestly do worry that some have. I know that I have felt deep, deep sadness, and anger… I’ve struggled to be joyful. This whole thing has hurt my heart in ways I never imagined… And I know many others who feel similarly. I suppose we can take comfort that if we find ourselves in this state, we haven’t lost the love we had — because there’s only that type of hurt when a love has been violated.
But perhaps collectively, as a Church those words are true. Maybe the Lord’s words are directed not to a single community like the Church at Ephesus – but rather the Church universal.
There’s a viciousness in the Church that is hard not to acknowledge. The devil has been successful in dividing us up into camps. The lack of trust, the lack of charity is out in the open. Yes the scandal, the coverups, the failures of those in leadership to be honest, transparent, real with all of us (and each other) – the long suffering, long ignored pain of the victims – all of this is way too real. And like the stages of grief one endures suffering the death of a loved one, this whole thing has made people react in understandably varied and extreme ways.
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t message me, text me or ask me outright for some answer to some chapter of this nauseating book. I don’t have an answer or the answer to fix all of this. But I see a lot of people using this scandal and crisis for ulterior motives that are only going to bring more division, greater mistrust, deeper wounds.
The more I sit with this passage though, that next line jumps out: Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.
Can we honestly assess the damage that has been done to the Church?
Can we be real about how this “scandal” isn’t simply because of one particular “ism” or moral failure – but because there’s been massive failures in not only living the life of the Gospel, the virtues of our Christian faith- but even daring to try – daring to encourage one another – lovingly calling out when there’s been failures in this area and repenting when we do fail?
Perhaps if the Church Universal – from Pope to lay person and everyone in between starts there, we can begin to recover the lost love – and in rediscovering Him, He who promises to make “all things new” can do so right here and now.