Here is a sampling of some recent scandalous news items in the Catholic world.
News item #1: Bishop Xavier of Nova resigned as bishop of Solsona, Spain, for supposedly “personal reasons.” It is widely reported that he is now cohabitating with a divorcee known for her satanic writings and erotic novels.
News item #2: Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva of the diocese of São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, resigned as bishop a few days after sexually explicit videos of him surfaced on the internet.
News item #3 has to do deal with doctrine. Monsignor Philippe Bordeyne, the new president of the former John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, indicated that our understanding of marriage must be fluid and constantly changing when he said, “Theologians cannot continue to assert certainties about the family when we see the transformations it is undergoing today.”
Imagine the damaging effects of such scandalous words and actions on men who feel called to become Catholic priests today. Imagine how difficult it would be to encourage the youth to be chaste when their pastors do not seem to care about sexual immorality. Imagine the adverse and discouraging effects of these actions on seminarians and priests who intend to be faithful and holy in their priestly vocation. Imagine how faithfully married couples would feel to hear that their union is now outdated and in need of some form of constant “updating” to produce some other culturally acceptable deviant forms of marital union. Imagine how all these scandals in faith and morals are undermining the moral authority of the Church and making it difficult for people to recognize and embrace the one true faith.
Lest we become discouraged or carefree about all these unending scandals, let the words of Jesus about the inevitability of scandals and their consequences sink into our hearts, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come.”(Lk 17:1) God does not remove the scandals and scandalous people from our midst but He is in the business of producing prophets. Yes! In the face of scandals, God wants all His people to be prophetic i.e., people who always speak and act under God’s extraordinary influence so as to manifest His saving will to all people.
God so desires His people to be prophets that He took some of Moses’ spirit and bestowed it on the seventy elders. All the elders, including the two men who were not present, began to do what Moses did, “As the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” Moses ignored Joshua’s demand to stop the two prophesying men. This is because God’s desire for all His people to be prophetic echoed in Moses’ heart, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!”(Nm 11:25,29)
In the fullness of time, God has also given to us the very Spirit of His Son, Jesus Christ, the ultimate prophet. St. Peter attested to this promise of the Spirit when he said, “For the promise (Holy Spirit) is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to Him.”(Acts 2:39) Because we possess His Spirit, we too are to be prophetic like Jesus Christ in the face of all the scandals that we have inside and outside the Church today.
In Mk 9:38-48, Jesus calls all His disciples to be prophetic in the following ways:
Firstly, prophets are to act under the influence of divine grace and not out of self interest, envy, or rivalry. The disciples tried to prevent someone who was casting out demons simply because the person was not in their group. On the contrary, divine grace should move them out of themselves and their prejudice in order to bring all souls into unity under God, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Grace in the heart of the prophet tends to lead all to God because grace has God both has its source and its end.
Secondly, prophets are to encourage, and not prevent, those who do good, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” The prophetic soul discerns whatever goodness is present in persons, societies, and conditions. Sensing God’s mysterious action in these moments, the prophet then labors to cooperate with God and bring that goodness to fruition by his own words and actions.
Thirdly, prophets are to avoid scandalizing others at all cost, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The prophetic soul would rather die than scandalize souls purchased with the blood of Christ.
Lastly, prophetic souls refuse to compromise and be mastered by sin because their greatest desire is to enter into the fullness of life, “If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.” The prophet cannot be so focused on renouncing evil in the Church and in the world that he ignores his own sanctity and wholeness. This is why Jesus clearly denounced hypocrisy, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”(Mt 7:5) Honest self-reflection and ongoing conversion is necessary for any authentic prophet in our scandalous times.
God does not eradicate all scandals. His remedy for the many scandals of our times is to raise authentic prophets. Where scandals lead souls away from faithfulness to God, prophetic words and actions draw them back on the path of fidelity to God. Where scandals make the practice of virtue difficult or even impossible, the prophet brings hope for virtuous living. Where scandalous acts lead others to sin and hopelessness, the prophet shows the way to fullness of life in Christ and joy-filled hope.
It is no mere coincidence that we witnessed recently the interment of the remains of the heroic priest of WWII and Korean war, Fr. Emil Kapaun, in his native Wichita, Kansas. He was a US Army chaplain who risked his life to administer to soldiers in the front lines of the Korean war. He died of pneumonia in a Korean POW camp in 1951 where he had spent many months tending the physical and spiritual wounds of his fellow prisoners and giving them hope in those dark moments.
What a providential example of a prophet in the Catholic priesthood for us today when clergy scandalously deny the faithful sacraments because of Covid-19. What is more scandalous than giving Holy Communion to persons who support and promote abortion and then declaring the faithful unfit for the sacraments because they have not been vaccinated against the Covid virus? Are we being prophetic when we deny the faithful full access to the ancient traditional liturgies of the Church?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we God’s prophetic people or God’s scandalous people? There are so many weak and confused people in our Church and in our world today. The scandals around them have not and cannot completely extinguish the light of truth that they bear within them as children of God, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) These persons only need to see and hear from the prophets that God is raising up at these times. We can bring that light and hope to blossom in them or we can choose to be complacent, tolerating, perpetuating, ignoring, justifying, rationalizing, or even succumbing to these horrible scandals.
Remember Jesus’ strong words for those who still choose to ignore their prophetic vocation and choose to scandalize others, “It would be better for him if a great millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” How dreadful the eternal consequences of scandal if the temporal consequences are these brutal.
“Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” This is not just Moses’ desire, but God’s ardent and undying desire for all of us now, whether we are near or far from Him. He has literally poured the Spirit of His Son, Jesus Christ, into our hearts for this purpose, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5) Do we desire to be His prophets today?
The Eucharist is food for God’s prophets in the making! This is where grace and truth of Jesus begin to influence us to always speak and act in ways that make God’s will manifest in all times and places no matter the consequences. We have no excuse now to be overcome by these scandals because God has and will surely give us all that we need to become His truly prophetic people in these scandalous times.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!