Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Everything aches. We talk about it. It still hurts. We don’t talk about it. It hurts more. This scandal is an aching leaking open wound to the heart.
We have been pierced. It’s also a reality which is an opportunity for great grace if we allow it. Grace isn’t pretending we don’t hurt. It isn’t pretending it isn’t hard. Grace is not being defined by suffering, but by love. Christ pours out his love, his forgiveness, even from the cross.
So how do we hold on to or receive grace when even entering the Church is a reminder? Everything about our faith right now is a reminder of how hurt we are. How do we hold on to the gifts of the Church when we’re angry at the leaders of the Church? We cannot stay away or we will lose the Eucharist and all the sacraments. We cannot cloak it, because that’s how it became so systemic in the first place and there is no aspirin big enough to mask the heartache. We are fighting it with calls for action, with letters, with prayers, with fasting, with trying to stay informed — though not always gracefully.
To weather all of this, we must practice the little sought grace of forbearance — of patience with the work of redemption being played out over time. So we must, as God does, endure suffering well, and for the sanctification of ourselves and others. God endures all our sins, He’s not sending down lightning bolts, because He loves, and he wills for all of us to, out of love, freely find our way to love him.
We know all our prayers, all our cries to Heaven, are heard. It’s a tall order. The thought in my head remained on the worldly issues of penance and forgiveness. Just as we want the bishops and priests and cardinals to manifest publicly some form of penance for the injuries done, so also the laity must manifest some form of public forgiveness of the Church herself by continuing to show up. We couldn’t just come for the sacraments, like a drive-thru for spiritual pick-me-ups.
We have to trust that Christ’s words on the cross still mean exactly what they mean. He offers forgiveness to all who ask, to all who seek whenever it is they recognize, they need to seek it. “Father forgive them” is an offering to each of us, to all of us, and we’re to do the same. How? One might well ask. How does Christ forgive on the cross?
We now come to the grip of it, to the reality of offering forgiveness being necessary, and sin being as hard as nails through flesh. Grace is beyond what is reasonable, because God’s love is beyond limits. Forbearance is recognizing that our souls, and those of people all around us, depend upon us praying for all to seek and ask for forgiveness, even for the most heinous of acts. These are not easy prayers, but our willingness to pray for the salvation of our enemies reveals the extent of our desire for heavenly justice.