Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’
Gospel for the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
The news about sexual abuse in the Church continues. Often Catholics, Christians, are persecuted for things which are, in fact, good – and that has given the Church a language and practice in dealing with that – martyrdom, carry your cross daily, and so on…
When the things are truly bad, horribly bad, because of the sins of her members, the Church has less facility in responding. And clearly one common response has been for those in authority to simply to try and cover up the bad, for the sake of the ‘bubble’ that is reputation.
The Lord calls us to a something different. He calls the disciples, the original ones and us now) to a certain emptiness and poverty instead. He asks that we allow ourselves to lose those things we may have considered precious – opinion, reputation, authority – but which are less important than love, mercy and compassion which maybe no one can ever rob us off, but which we can very easily find we deny to others.
Love, mercy, compassion for those who are victims of abuse, of course – and in double measure. How could we not want to respond to the harm done to them, and the hurt they bear.
But love, mercy, compassion for the perpetrators also. Punishment must come their way too – from state and from Church – but also . And unless they offer honest admission and repentance love mercy and compassion may well be offered to no avail. But they too deserve the healing that is offered by the Lord, and that is entrusted to the Church.
Image: Our Lady of Mercy, Convent of Mercy Sisters, Handsworth. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.