Many people then wanted Peter’s shadow at least to fall on them. Now, however, the figure representing those in the U.S., for example, who claim not to have any religious affiliation has gone up to 20%, according to sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley. And it is no secret that there are more and more Catholics who identify themselves as “recovering Catholics.” So, the bishop of Trenton, NJ, David M. O’Connell, C.M., had every reason to consult with scholars.
It is fine to leave it to the experts to find explanations. The Church should not lose any member. Nor can she fail to make disciples of all nations.
And the more the Church fulfills her mission to be an instrument of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, the more she exudes life and joy. Doing so, she encourages her own to stay and others to believe in the Lord. She likewise becomes like the one who, anticipating the need of those locked up in the darkness of fear and shame, wishes them peace and, in effect, tells them: “Be enlightened”; “Go forth.” People are driven away, on the other hand, by a Church with the frowning face of an inquisitor.
The more we introduce ourselves as bearing the marks of the one lifted up and pierced on the cross, who lived and preached the good news of mercy and justice in a way never seen nor heard before, the more we show that we are the authentic body of Christ. Working with him for the forgiveness of sins and the justification of many, we partake of his attractiveness and of his blessing of seeing countless descendants (Is 53:10). Those who suffer much and are mocked have great esteem for the Church that gives witness to Jesus who is like his brothers in every way, but sin, and has been similarly tested like them.
Such a Church is, therefore, compassionate. She is the voice of the voiceless infants in the wombs who leap for joy at Jesus’ presence. Like him, she puts her arms around children, especially those children who ask their mothers, “Where is the cereal?” as they faint away and even breathe their last in their mothers’ arms (Lam 2:12). She receives the insane in imitation of her Lord who, according to St. Vincent de Paul, “willed to be surrounded by lunatics, demoniacs, the insane, the tempted, the possessed,” so as to heal them (XII, 88). She welcomes the belittled foreigners and the wearied exiles, and comforts them with the Risen One’s words, “Do not be afraid.” Like Jesus who came to call sinners and empowers them for the new life, she is at the service of the delinquents. Just like the Good Samaritan par excellence, she approaches the victims of wars, of injustice and violence, of natural disasters and accidents. She frequents the “outskirts,” to bring light to those places where the faith of those who believe without seeing is most at risk, and to pray over the realities of people’s daily life, “their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes” (Pope Francis, Chrism Mass).
This Church that sees no misery that she does not try to alleviate only provides the “same kind of meal” she receives at the Lord’s Table (cf. St. Augustine, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for Wednesday of Holy Week). Small like the mustard seed, she becomes so large that she draws many to dwell in her shade, like in the shadow of the Almighty (Mk 4:31-32; Ps 91:1).
Ross Reyes Dizon