“Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean.” (Mark 7:15) These words of Jesus could be written in any self-help book about “how to” organise one’s own life.
Given personal human freedom, we do not have to be controlled by outside forces. In theory we are in charge. We can make our own decisions. In practice, it is not like that. We are aware of how influences from outside, consciously and unconsciously, affect us so that often we do things that we immediately regret.
The Incarnation, the coming of God into our flesh and walking our earth, was to help us be our true self. If we look at Peter we see someone trying to be his true self, and showing flashes of courage and generosity, but in the end falling into a hopeless mess and “weeping bitterly.” It was in that moment of profound bitterness and shame that he met Truth, a person who “turned and looked at him” (Luke 22:61) with infinite understanding and love.
This has been a hard week. Last Sunday I attended the Mass with Pope Francis in Dublin over which hung the dark cloud of abuse and cover-up. Then today I read, in The Tablet, of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse in two Benedictine schools in England. I was at one of those schools and, in my day, I never heard a whisper of what is reported. That is not to say it did not happen, or it happened after I left. All I remember is the devoted endeavour of the monks to give of their best so that we might have a rounded education.
But now this abuse is out in the open here and in many other countries. And where it is still not yet out in the open it is likely to be sooner or later. It all makes for bitterly sad reading.
To say, in the next breath, it is a moment of meeting Truth and a moment of healing, is perhaps to speak too quickly. We cannot rush healing. This will take time, painful time. I felt for Pope Francis in Dublin. I felt he is carrying this burden for the Church. He always asks us to pray for him but he is only doing that so that we may share his heavy burden. There is definitely a way forward. There is definitely a huge moment of growth and new life round the corner. But we are not yet ready to think about it now. We have too much mourning to do still.