I am no victim
I live with a vision
I’m covered by the force of love
Covered in my Savior’s blood
I am no orphan
I’m not a poor man
The Kingdom’s now become my own
And with the King I’ve found a home *
The Shadow of the Steeple
The Pennsylvania grand jury report, McCarrick scandal and serious allegations leveled by the Vigano letter, raise troubling questions around numerous Church processes and institutions. The direct human devastation and trauma that lies in the wake of these abuses defies description. There is no way to justify it. No way to excuse it. No way to ignore it.
Sadly, though, these new revelations reflect a trajectory worldliness that has found its way into the Church, and deprived it of its vitality, power and relevance. For well over a generation, the statistics have been the harbinger of trouble. Among those statistics, 1 in every 16 adults in America self-identifies as ‘former Catholic’. Over 6 million people leave the Church for every 1 convert to the faith. 30% of millennials claim no religious affiliation, except those raised Catholic, where the percentage swells to 50%.
Nothing New Under the Sun
While the personal tragedy that victims have endured is beyond words, a sad, similar pattern echoes from the scriptures. The Bible provides a long history of God’s people, at first fervent, then complacent, ultimately seduced by the world. They fall into sin, and suffer the natural consequences of those actions. The prophets from the Old Testament were constantly calling the people to conversion, to come back to intimacy with God.
Even within the Christian epoch, the Church has succumbed to the lures of worldly position, prestige and power. Loathe as we should be to repeat the evils of past eras, our lukewarm hearts toward God remind us of the Hebrews in the desert, or those exiled to foreign lands, worshipping false idols.
The Rest of the Story
Romans 8:28 states, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” We can draw from this scripture that God has the power and capacity to make everything, including evil, ultimately produce ‘good’. So, if it isn’t good today, it definitely means that it is not the end.
The stories of God’s people across the millennia carry a similar theme. God blesses a faithful people, who eventually lose their way and fall into sin. God exposes their sin, calls them to conversion and repentance, and then restores them. In the very short book of Haggai, the prophet calls the people to task for having forgotten God. But God also makes a promise that we hear many times in scripture, that what He restores will be even better than it was before.
He’s not just reviving
Not simply restoring
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have yet to come *
John Wayne, the legendary cowboy movie star once said, “Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” It took monumental courage for Jesus to hand himself over to his persecutors, knowing full well their plans. It took courage for the disciples to burst forth from the locked room on Pentecost to proclaim Jesus to a hostile world. And it takes courage to stand up and say, “I was abused by a bishop whom everybody loves and idolizes.”
It will take courage to confront the evils that have found their way into the structures of the Church. It will take even more courage to confront the evil that has found its way into the structure of our own lives, like comfort, mediocrity, half-heartedness and cultural Catholicism.
Courage is always available as a response to fear, anxiety or despair. It is a response that is chosen. It is intentional. But, it is infused with the assurance of God. Courage knows that hardship, risk and danger are part of the process. But, it also knows that the restoration is priceless. Courage is willing to pay the price to get to the breakthrough.
He is my Father
I do not wonder
If His plans for me are good
If He’ll come through like He should
‘Cause He is provision
And enough wisdom
To usher in my brightest days
To turn my mourning into praise *
I Am No Victim
In opening chapters of the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah is living in exile, far from Jerusalem. He is the cup-bearer to the King when he hears about Jerusalem, and going to the King pleads, “…send me to Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, that I may rebuild it.” Nehemiah’s only connection with Jerusalem is ancestral. Yet, his heart is so moved by the destruction of the city, that he personally takes responsibility for rebuilding the wall.
Nehemiah trusted in the goodness and faithfulness of God, stood in the breach of crisis, sought God for answers, and rebuilt in 52 days the wall that had lain in ruins for almost 70 years since the exiles returned from Babylon.
Each of us, as Catholics, are called to be a “Nehemiah” in this hour of the Church’s history. As we boldly step in, and turn our hearts to God, we will refuse to be the victims of a sad era, but instead, become the victors of a radical renewal of Jesus’ precious Church. As the beautiful Bethel music lyrics say, I do not wonder if His plans for me are good, if He’ll come through like He should, ‘cause He is provision and enough wisdom to usher in my brightest days, to turn my mourning into praise.
* I Am No Victim, Bethel Music