Monday, January 3, 2011

Beyond the Jordan

Just as we heard about the child Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles and the Magi returning to their homes yesterday, today in Matthew's Gospel (Mt. 4: 12-17, 23-25) we hear about His preaching as an adult to the Gentiles. What was foreseen in the child is fulfilled in the man. His initial message picked up where John the Baptist left off: repent. But Jesus went further. In fact, Matthew tells us in a very obvious way that "great crowds from beyond the Jordan followed him." News of John's arrest did not deter the Lord, but rather made Him go even further in His preaching.
I was meditating on the comparison between then and now, and between Jesus' reaction to difficult news and mine. As a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington, I am naturally horrified by the stories of the sexual abuse of minors by several priests that occurred decades ago. Because of a change in the law here in Delaware, we are now facing the painful consequences of these actions, with the very real possibility of parishes and schools being forced to close in order to compensate the victims of these terrible acts.
There is a natural tendency to be extremely angry at those who caused this situation. I find it difficult to think charitably toward priests who so horribly abused the trust of so many. This could easily lead me to a cynicism and perhaps make me withdraw from becoming close to the people I serve, either from a sense of shame or out of a desire to insure that no one will project onto me the sins of these few bad priests.
But then, when I see what the Lord did, I realize that I can only continue to try and do what God has set out for me to accomplish each day. I have to redouble my efforts to atone for the sins of these men and make sure that people see in me a sign of God's love. If I let myself be disillusioned by the bad news that seems to be in the papers every day, I would be allowing myself and my parishioners to also be victimized by these men.
And so I must do what Jesus did and go beyond the Jordan. I must continue my ministry, my mission and go even further in spreading the Good News, so that others do not become depressed and give in to the temptation to withdraw from parish, Church, even God. I must go beyond this Jordan of shame for the actions of bad priests and give people the opportunity to discover the truths and beauty which I know are contained in our faith.
How about you? What do you have to get beyond? What's your Jordan?

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