Reflection for Sunday, October 27, 2019

By Fr. Paul Robson sj

On my mind and in my heart these days is the ongoing scandal and crisis in the Church, related to the abuse of minors by clergy and religious brothers. My reactions to this situation have included feeling disappointed, shocked, confused, humbled, humiliated. It was in this context, with this situation in mind, that I took a look at the readings for today’s Mass.

Our first reading, from the Old Testament, tells us that the Lord God “will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged,” and to the prayer of the widow and the orphan. In the New Testament, we find stories of Jesus siding with those who are being treated badly. Jesus also suffered and became a victim, an innocent victim, and so he can relate quite directly to those who hurt and to those who have been wronged.

In our Gospel reading, we have the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee is “standing by himself”, he has separated himself from others, and he looks down on others. He can be described as a self-righteous person. The tax collector, on the other hand, makes this simple, humble prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I would say that Church leaders, clergy members, like myself, go wrong when we take the position of the Pharisee, and do well when we take the position of the tax collector.

There is hope because God is still working, because Jesus is still working: working toward the healing of the victim and toward changing the heart of the oppressor. For me, among my reactions, noted above, were humility and humiliation. Well, I will take the humility, seeing it as a good thing, as a gift from God, which will help me in my ministry.

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