How to Respond to the Crisis With a True Spirit of Renewal

St. Benedict reminds us to avoid the “zeal of bitterness.”

(photo: Credit: Mary Rose Verret)

Many today are so disgusted with Judas that they walk away from Christ. Each new revelation of scandal and abuse rightly stirs up anger, frustration, and the conviction that something has to radically change. These are all human emotions that can help to bring about positive change. These emotions should motivate us to be bold, get involved and positively make changes for the good of His Church. However, there is a fine line that is easy to cross if you are not looking for it.

What is the fine line and how can we avoid crossing it? With all the horrific news of abuse, scandal, cover-up and silence in the Church, it is so tempting to respond in a way that cuts us off from Christ and shatters His Church. We become so focused on our feelings and disappointment and removing the pain and misery, that we forget that our concern should focus first on the renewal of the Church. How can we respond to the crisis in the Church today in a way that draws us closer to Christ and also brings about true healing and substantial renewal?

St. Benedict reminded us to avoid the “zeal of bitterness.” In this moment of crisis or frustration, we can either become reformers or zealots. We can become bitter and apathetic or bold and committed to renewal. We can become angry and obsess in a way that takes our peace and the peace of other good people, or we can prayerfully discern how God has created you and I for a time such as this, remembering that we are each called in a unique way to build up His Church which is falling into ruin.

The “zeal of bitterness” does almost as much harm as does the scandal that we are reacting to. Consider again, does your response to scandal and abuse focus on your own disappointment or on how you can help to rebuild and renew His Church?

A very wise priest said, “In response to this current scandal, we can respond as zealots who shatter and divide under the guise of reform, or we can be true reformers and start with radical holiness and conversion in our own lives first, allowing God to use us as His disciples to renew, reform and rebuild His Church.” If we choose the first option, we end up with the Inquisition. If we choose the second option of being true reformers, we will follow in the steps of St. Benedict, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Catherine of Siena. Let’s renew the Church and become saints in the process.