I couldn't get the printer to work this morning so the actual homily was delivered from notes I took based on what I had prepared below. It seemed to go well!
One Sunday a year our Guardian, on behalf of all the friars speaks to you about the issue of child abuse and apologizes for the harm done to children and vulnerable adults by some of our Capuchin brothers. There are some people who want that topic to go away perhaps because it is so unpleasant or perhaps because it so painful. It can bring up dark memories for some. It can also seem that abuse of children by religious or priests is worse than that any other kind of child abuse. It isn’t. Any abuse of children or of vulnerable adults is evil and there is no excuse for it. The Church’s Tradition has long held that there are four sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance. I think they should add the abuse of the young and vulnerable to that list. The price of peace is eternal vigilance and that applies to protecting children as much as it does to anything else. I know too many people whose lives have been scarred by abuse whether at home or in care, whether by strangers or those they knew and loved. We apologize so that we will not forget and we do not forget so that we will take seriously our obligation to protect the weakest and the most vulnerable from those who would prey on them.
It raises the question though how could the perpetrators of these acts do these things and how could those who knew or came to know, whether superiors, neighbours or family members, not act to bring these things to an end? There are many reasons why those who abuse choose to do so and we would need a psychiatrist to cover that. There are very few for why anyone would turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to abuse. I think that one reason that some Catholics do so is a failure to heed our Lord’s warning. If we think that somehow we will not have to give an account to God or that we can find a ‘backdoor’ to salvation that avoids the narrow door then we are more likely to take the coward’s way out and fail those who need our help the most.
That is why it is an important question ‘How many will be saved?’ and it’s an important question that is not often asked today. Our Lord does not actually answer it, not directly, but rather urges us to strive for salvation, to enter by the narrow door, the narrow way that leads to Eternal Life. He warns us that many will try and fail because they are not strong enough. What is the narrow door? It is the way of the Gospel, of the Church’s Teaching, of virtue. It is narrow because it demands that we let go of all that is not necessary and above all of anything that is contrary to the will of God. We are so attached to these things that it can be painful but once through the door there is the joy and peace of the Kingdom of God. Do not lose Eternal joy for a joy that cannot last!
Our Lord does not answer the question about how many will be saved directly because He wishes to keep us from two errors. Those errors, opposites to one another, are that of despair and complacency. In the past some generations have tended towards despair thinking that so few get through that narrow door that most of us are doomed. In our present age we have certainly leaned towards complacency with some theologians and even bishops holding that ‘all or most of us are saved’. Both extremes are a lethal to our salvation. Salvation, the avoidance not only of damnation forever in Hell but gaining Eternal Life with God is not our achievement. If we try to save our selves, to enter by the Narrow Door on our own steam, by our own strength, then we are doomed to failure. It is God’s free gift to us, unmerited, unsought, and often unappreciated.
The middle way between despair and complacency is one of hope, hope not only in God’s mercy but in the power of His grace to empower us and magnify the effects of our efforts so that what is beyond human strength is shown to be more than possible by His grace.
God not only permits, but actively invites us to get involved in our salvation through faith in Christ and through active love for God and our neighbour but it is His grace that enables us to believe and to love. He saves us we do not save ourselves. He it is who can heal the harm and damage that has been done even by those who should be the best examples of what it is to follow Christ. There is the hope in the Cross of Christ: mercy for those who have sinned and repent and healing for those who have been hurt.
This path of hope means that we must take our salvation seriously but also do so with knowledge and faith that everything really depends on God and His mercy. It gives us the courage to keep our eyes and ears open and to stand up to evil especially when it targets the weak. This path challenges us to really live the Gospel in every aspect of our lives and to never allow the weak and vulnerable to come to harm or to let their cries for help go unanswered.