In today’s readings I am struck by the contrast between what is happening in Acts and what is happening in John – the startling contrast between the Greeks, non-Jews, joyfully and fully accepting the Lord Jesus as the Christ, and the Jews in the temple area disbelieving both the words and the works of Jesus himself, refusing faith and rejecting him.
These Greeks in Antioch took to the word of the Lord so eagerly that eventually news of them reached the disciples in Jerusalem, who then sent Barnabas to check on them. He was so amazed and overjoyed at their faith that he took off to Tarsus to find Saul and bring him back to Antioch. The two of them remained there a whole year, building up the church with these non-Jewish converts to Jesus the Christ. And it was there that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians. This story in Acts is filled with the wonder and joy of the Resurrected Lord.
But in John we have the sad rejection of faith from the very ones to whom Jesus was first sent. "If you are the Christ, tell us plainly," they demand of him. But the kind of Christ they want is not the Christ he has to offer. Thinking they are in the right, they, the chosen people, reject him and his Father – they know better. Neither his words nor his works move them; he must conform to what they expect of the Christ.
Through this Eastertide I have been constantly struck by how much what is going on in our own church today parallels what is happening in the Scripture readings. We have been contemplating first all the wonderful things the newly inspired disciples of the Lord have been working among the people as they proclaim the crucified and risen Lord. Then, immediately upon that, we see the refusal of the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, to acknowledge their mistake and accept the wonders happening before them. Instead of listening to people like Gamaliel and Nicodemus, they hound the disciples as much as they dare and try to shut them up. In our church today are we witnessing the same thing with the Vatican and our American Sisters?
The CDF has just unloaded the results of their three-year investigation upon the LCWR – and calls for them to submit to five years regulation by an Archbishop and two bishops, to have their rules and regulations revised, their assembly plans inspected, their proposed speakers vetted for approval or rejection, meanwhile accusing them of giving scandal. Yet the worst scandal ever to hit the church, the cover-up of the clerical abuse of children by John Paul II, the CDF, and our own hierarchy continues without a word. The files remain sealed and locked, both in the Vatican and in our dioceses. How do I, a member of this one body the church, "speak the truth to the Pope and Bishops honestly, in love," as St. Paul advises? Is a letter to the Papal Nuncio in order? How do I come to the support of our Sisters and the LCWR? A letter to LCWR promising daily heartfelt prayer and penance? "To speak the truth honestly – in love" . . .
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, St. Xavier High School, across the creek from Sacred Heart Passionist Monastery in Louisville,Kentucky.