I am discouraged by the overriding theme of “unworthiness” that seems to permeate our homilies and conservative Catholic media. Far too often we are being told that we must be in pursuit of a “Catholic identity” – whatever that means. Am I less Catholic because my children attended public school? Am I less Catholic because I question Church authority? Am I less deserving of Jesus’ love because I believe we must respect all life, not just the unborn? What about those on death row, the elderly, and the mentally ill?
Recent statements and actions taken by Catholic bishops only fuel the fire of shamefulness. Censure and sanctions against those that question official Church teaching and suspicion and condemnation of those whose political ideals are not in harmony with THE CHURCH are frightening. The idea that Eucharistic ministers must become “Communion cops” is both sad and alarming. The suggestion that none of us is worthy of God’s love and forgiveness greatly disturbs me. Who among us is above reproach? Who among us is free from sin? And who decides?
Awhile ago I read an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter. It stated:
“The church once viewed itself as a home for everyone and its children as works in progress. The church once had room for all who were a day late and a dollar short of the ideal, whose private lives were compromised by infidelity, racism, addictions, larceny and deception. Sunday Mass was the gathering place for the seven capital sinners, dressed up, mixed up, and trying their best, it was assumed, to navigate life’s contradictions.”
I find myself in that category of sinners, and I believe that in spite of my sinfulness, Jesus still invites me the altar to share in His Body. It is through Christ that we are perfected. And it is through one another that we share in Christ’s love.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
So shouldn’t we be welcoming one another into God’s house? When our lives get complicated, when our children turn out different from what we thought they would, when controversy invades our homes, where should we go? Isn’t it through listening to one another’s stories and, through them, finding balance and compassion, that we do the work of reconciliation that makes us church?
Thanks to each of you that have welcomed me to Christ’s table through these many years. I know that if I had waited until I felt “worthy” I would still be in the darkness.