A Time for Action…and Reflection

Queenship of Mary

In a recent post on his blog, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, began his reflections on the latest round of scandals in the Church with a statement that he had made earlier to the people in his archdiocese.  It began, “There are times when words fail us….” 

We are hearing from many corners inside and outside the Church understandable and justifiable calls for action on many levels.  Yet it is also a time for reflection—not reflection instead of action but rather reflection with action.

It is fortuitous that the first reading for today’s Mass is Ezekiel 34:1-11, a very serious condemnation of the failures of the shepherds of God’s people.  It certainly reminds us of what’s going on in the Church.  While we need to focus on “getting our own house in order,” it’s also important to understand that what the Church is experiencing is symptomatic of a more widespread culture of sexual abuses and other abuses of power, trust and authority in a wide variety of institutions and contexts, from the Chicago Public Schools to UN Peacekeepers, from Big Ten universities to Congress and the White House, from #MeToo to #BlackLivesMatter.

While we need to root out corruption, it is just as vital to reflect on what it means to be a good shepherd.  We also need to recognize that shepherding today takes many forms:  parents, teachers, coaches, police officers, shift foremen, university chancellors, corporate CEO’s, and presidents as well as bishops and priests are all shepherds in one way or another.  As a friar, pastor and formator, I need to constantly ask myself, “Am I a good shepherd?  How can I become better?”

In the midst of all of the work that we need to do toward healing, accountability and reform it is helpful to keep in mind not only God’s stern words spoken through Ezekiel but also the encouragement in 1 Peter 5:1-4 (the reading from Evening Prayer in the Common of Pastors in the Liturgy of the Hours), John 10:1-18 (Jesus’ description of his mission as the Good Shepherd) and Psalm 23 (how God shepherds us all).  Those are words that will not fail us. —JC