(It’s Sunday evening and I’m going to try to put here a few thoughts I shared at Masses earlier today in Kilmovee and Kilkelly)
Earlier today I went to make myself a mug of coffee. I went to the fridge and took out a carton of milk. When I opened it I discovered it had gone sour. I closed the carton, put the milk back in the fridge and closed the door. Immediately I asked myself why I’d done that. The only thing to do with that milk was dump it but it’s still in the fridge!!! There is something strange in us that doesn’t easily dump things or let go of them even when there’s no possibility whatsoever of them becoming usable. We’re strange creatures for sure ….
Today’s Gospel speaks of darnel growing alongside wheat – weed with crop – workers ask their boss will they take out the weeds but he cautions against rush. There’s a danger that what is crop, what will most certainly be needed, could be torn out with the weed. His advice is to give time until it is clearly evident which is which and then the separation must take place.
This week saw the publication of the “Cloyne Report”and its recounting the terrible misdeeds inflicted on the young. It brought to the surface too, the mishandling of allegations, wrong decisions about what should be done with those who abused the trust and violated the innocence of children. Terrible and wrong, a reminder again though reminders are not needed that people have been badly left down, lessons have not been learned and much needs still to be done to ensure the well being of God’s people.
The report led to outcry on radio shows, in our Government Buildings and across the land and, I’m sure, globe. People called chat shows to air their views, mostly rooted in hurt and total sincerity. Government Ministers and our Taoiseach called for radical new laws that rendered the “seal of confession” illegal. “The law of the land should not be stopped by crozier, or by collar,” Mr Kenny said. I’m afraid I reacted badly to that. A throw away comment – a headline – a sound byte that said nothing. This notion of throwing everything to do with church out seemed rampant – Angelus Bells, Prayer in the Dáil, the banishment of the Papal Nuncio – all up for uprooting. Wheat and Darnel comes to mind. There is such a risk involved of throwing out all that is good, Holy, wholesome, sincere, essential with what is so obviously and atrociously wrong. The Government involving itself in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is as wrong as the Church involving itself in anything to do with circumventing the “Law of the Land”. It’s a nonsense to talk like this – clever, perhaps even well-intentioned, but totally misguided.
There’s no arguing that “time” is not on our side and what needs to be done has to happen quickly. Rush has its own hazards though and one of them is the destruction of what is good. That, I believe is a price too high to pay.
I mentioned “tiles” earlier. Let me tell you what I’m talking about. Two weeks ago I went to open the door of the Parish Church and had great difficulty doing so. The door was stiff, hard moved and I thought something had become lodged underneath. I opened the door because it needed to be opened. People expected it to be open so that they could visit the church, light a candle, say a prayer and attend Mass. Later that day, we discovered why the door was difficult to open. The tiles had started to lift. Later they bubbled up here and there for absolutely no apparent reason. Tiles that had been in place and in perfect condition for more than sixty years began to dislodge themselves. They all had to be lifted. Enough of them were broken to ensure they could not be put back. It was a huge disappointment.
New tiles were needed. Plans were set in train to replace them. A design was drawn up. The tiles that had become loose were moved, the broken ones dumped and the few that remained in place were uplifted. Though we hadn’t planned on this, or wanted it, the truth was it had to be done. It wasn’t easy to see or maybe even to justify the replacement of the old but it had to be done. It took time though, it took skill and direction. People who knew what they were about did the work and, thankfully, did it very well. What was good of the old was salvaged. Perhaps it will find its way into someone’s new home at some stage. “Those tiles are from Kilmovee Church” ….. Today people attending Mass admired the new. “it looks so well”. The new tiles and their colour borrowed heavily from what was before but a new pattern emerged.
What has this to do with weeds and wheat? What has this to do with Church? What has this to do with the Cloyne Report? At one level, absolutely nothing but at another I think it has bit to say. It speaks of it being hard to change the old but of it being, at times, very necessary. If people know what they are about and want truly what’s best, it can be done and the situation can be much better than before. The desire has to be to improve while respecting what is already there. I believe this has to be done in our church at this time. Change is certainly needed but it has to be given time. Knee-jerk reactions from apologies to sweeping statements about “croziers and collars” will achieve nothing. We must look at what’s there, recognise what has become unstuck and set about re-designing, reforming, re-building and retaining what was and remains good in our Church, namely good people – men and women, children and adults, religious and laity, committed and lapsed.
A final point …. while the work was being carried out on our porch a lot of things had to be moved out of the way. De-cluttering I suppose you’d call it. These included statues, a large and very old-fashioned table, chairs that nobody has really sat on in ages and other bits and pieces. I was amazed at how much room there is in that porch. I was amazed too had how beautiful the floor looked – how bright and inviting. The clutter, even “holy” clutter was not serving it well. Maybe we need to look at that too. Is there a place for de-cluttering “Church”? Maybe we’ve got caught up in silly stuff – titles and more – and lost sight of the floor! It just occurs to me that when the Lord wanted to draw people’s attention away from throwing stones, he wrote on the dust (the floor) – was he pointing us there and saying “it’s from ground level” you must rebuild?