A few days ago, one of the elder friars in our community gave an excellent homily concerning the devastating sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. Having been surrounded by the whirlwind of media coverage over the last couple of weeks, he pondered what the takeaway message should be for us as Christians and specifically as Carmelites. Father suggested that the answer for us can be found right there at the beginning of our rule: the one thing that matters is that we continue to strive to “live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
Not to downplay our current situation, but there has been a long history of corruption among the people of God. In the Old Testament, we see God threatening to destroy His chosen people for their infidelity and idolatry. In the New Testament, we see Jesus condemning the hypocrisy of the Sadducees and Pharisees. There have been wicked popes, cardinals, and bishops. There has been violence, perversion, and deceit. Our history is wrought with the sins of those who should best represent the love of God. And short of the second coming, the Church will continue to be wrought with the sins of its members.
God has given us the Church to be the means of our salvation, but our hope does not rise or fall with the sinful members of this divine institution. Our hope is found exclusively in Jesus Christ. Yes, the Church has often faced great corruption, yet at each of these times, God has brought His people to conversion through the witness of holy men and women. Think of the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, Francis of Assisi, and Teresa of Avila. In times of great corruption, God raises up great saints in the world to lead His people to repentance.
Our role as Christians—as Carmelites—is to strive to live lives of allegiance to Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, we unite ourselves to the Father in prayer. Like Jesus, we make restitution for the sins of the world. Like Jesus, we call others to repentance by our witness. Like Jesus, we love and protect the most vulnerable, especially the children.
Now more than ever in our lifetime, the Church needs you to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ. Now more than ever, the Church needs you to be a saint!