Sunday, 5 October 2014
Bishop Kieran Conry's Resignation, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Many of you, I know, have been pondering the shock resignation of Bishop Kieran Conry last week, and I'd like to address some of the issues that people have indicated it has raised for them, because I think you have a right to more than just an awkward silence from the pulpit when there are headlines like this.
First, some of you have referred to a profound DISAPPOINTMENT on reading about this behaviour from a bishop. And I'd like to acknowledge that I too am saddened and disappointed. Contrary to the impression that the media sometimes create, the Catholic clergy are not some "boys club" where we think this is OK for us, both not OK for others. We too are saddened.
Second, on a more general level, There is a sadness about the general MESS that we can sometimes feel that the Church is in these days. Sometimes it can feel like it's one headline after another. Yes, the media does have an anti-Catholic bias. Yes, they do attack us more than they attack others. But it is also true that they have a right to expect a higher standard from the Church.
And when we look at this mess we can find ourselves asking, "Why does God allow it? Why does God not strike all the sinners and purify His Church?"
That's a good question. And an old question. Our first reading and the Gospel this week both give us images of this with the vineyard that fails to produce its fruit. We, the Church, are that vineyard. And often we fail to produce the fruit God asks of us.
But how many of us would be left here if God reduced the Church to only the choicest fruit, purified the Church till only the super-saints remained?
The truth is that part of God's mercy is that He allows us all to remain together, the weeds with the wheat (c.f. Mt 13:24-30, a different parable). He gives us time to change.
Yes, as that Gospel parable also indicated, He does demand fruit BE produced, and He does threaten to take that special "vineyard" status away if we don't produce fruit. But at this moment in time He is leaving the ripe and the sour grapes together -waiting, so that we sour grapes might have time to ripen to sweetness.
And that brings me to my final point, namely, one of hope. Hope that, despite the failings in the Church, holiness and saintliness is still more properly attributed to her than the crud and sin we are currently having paraded before us.
The Church does produce ripe, sweet, choice grapes, and it is proper to her to do so: she has a supernatural power within her that enables us to do what we cannot do alone:
To keep the promises we have made;
To be faithful to marriage;
To live the beauty and dignity of the life that Christ teaches us.
Yes, we can see examples of those who fail, and of those who struggle.
But we can also see examples of those who succeed.
To sum that up: If you're disappointed, I am disappointed too.
If you see a mess, I see it too.
But we should also remember to be cautious in judging others -let us not assume that we ourselves are ripe rather than sour grapes.
And to be wary of being so aware of the crud on the ground that we fail to see to see the light in the heavens that we are called to.
You don't come here because of me, and you don't come here because of this bishop or that bishop. We come here because of the Lord's call. And let us be grateful that we HAVE been called into this vineyard. "The vineyard of the Lord is House of Israel"(Ps 79:9), and we have been granted to be grafted into that house. Let us pray, and strive, to bear fruit ourselves.