This is a heart-wrenching time for our Church. We are numbed by the recent reports of past sexual abuses and the failure of some Church leaders to protect the most vulnerable among us. These reports reveal a crisis in our midst and the anger and dismay are natural. But how do we, as Christian stewards, respond? How do we participate in the healing and guiding work of the Holy Spirit? How do we stewards become a testimony to hope?
First, we can re-think how we work within the Church to protect the most vulnerable among us. How might we become better stewards of those entrusted to us? Christian stewards do not stand idly by, helpless or disengaged. They open their hearts to conversion, draw closer to those who suffer and seek ways to respond to injustice even if it is within their own family of faith.
Second, let’s make an honest assessment of our own life in Christ, beginning with the stewardship of our prayer lives. We pray for the victims and their families; for the innocents who continue to suffer; for a new resolve to reform the structures that have abetted wrongdoing; and even for those who have sinned. But let’s be honest about our conversations with God and the way we reveal our own weakness and frailty. It is here that we come to know the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It is here that Christ declares, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Third, let us embrace a new awareness of our stewardship of the Church. Our Church is found in our parish at the Eucharistic celebration, at faith formation gatherings, at our dinner table, in giving of our time at the soup kitchen, senior citizens’ home or the religious education of our young people. It is found in the many ways we give witness to the loving presence of Christ in a suffering world and offer hope.
Let’s ask ourselves: “How am I stewarding our Church?” One of the profoundly prophetic voices of the 20th century, Karl Rahner, insisted: Quite enough terrible and base things have happened in the history of the church … Where would we go if we left the church? Would we then be more faithful to the liberating spirit of Jesus if, egotistical sinners that we are, we distanced ourselves as the “pure” from this poor church?
We can do our part to remove its meanness only if we try to live in the church as Christians and help bear the responsibility of constantly changing it from inside (The Practice of Faith, New York: Crossroad, 1983, p. 15). As we persevere through the current crisis, let us remain mindful that Jesus taught us how not only to overcome evil, but to redeem it. Christian stewards, as active instruments of God’s mercy, understand the redemptive quality of being stewards of the Gospel. It is in fidelity to this stewardship, made manifest in prayer, word and deed, that our testimony of hope emerges to reveal the healing power of Christ’s presence.