Jesus Is the Answer to All That Ails Us and the Church
BOOK PICK: ‘Wheat and Tares’
WHEAT AND TARES: RESTORING THE MORAL VISION OF A SCANDALIZED CHURCH
Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
EWTN Publishing, 2020
247 pages, $18.95
To order: ewtnrc.com or (800) 854-6316
Father Mitch Pacwa’s timely book seeks to provide healing by restoring our faith in our faith, even when some leaders of that faith have proved faithless. The value of this book lies in reminding us of what our faith says about sin and morality, especially in the light of the core of that faith: Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
The author’s most profound discussion centers on the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist that anchors the Church and the priesthood that serves it:
“This is Christ’s primary attack against the evil forces of darkness, so a close examination of his institution of these two sacraments is a very important aspect of counteracting the present crisis in the Church. Some members of the Church, including some clergy, have diminished both sacraments. For some, their faith in the reality of Christ’s unbloody sacrifice and Real Presence has been diminished, while others focus on their own versions of thirty pieces of silver instead of Christ.”
Father Pacwa minces no words: “A spiritual battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness occurs in the Upper Room, as intently as it had in the desert of temptation.” It played out “when Jesus celebrated the First Eucharist and ordained His first bishops during the Last Supper.” This is not hyperbole: Could a Church that took the realities of the Eucharist and priesthood as profoundly seriously as it should have experience this degree of pervasive moral rot?
The author opens with a reminder of what Jesus taught us about sin, including that good and evil are often found together (hence, the title), but that we are accountable and will be judged “each according to his deeds.”
The heart of this book is Father Pacwa’s beautiful meditations on Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery that is the heart of our faith.
Father Pacwa’s deep biblical insight weaves the four Gospels’ accounts into an integrated whole as grist for meditation, with special application to the sexual-abuse crisis. Thus, he sees parallels between Gethsemane’s sleepy-time apostles and their successors who did not keep watch over what was happening around them until too late; between the miscarriage of justice in Jesus’ trials and the victimization of the sexually abused; Jesus’ naked public exposure on the cross and the sometimes literal public exposure of sexual-abuse victims in social media; and a parallel between today’s disillusioned Catholics and the travelers to Emmaus. He also offers spiritual suggestions, e.g., Jesus’ refusal of wine mixed with gall — a narcotic intended to dull the pain of crucifixion — as a model for today’s person, addicted to drugs or sex, to learn self-denial rather than surrender to quick fixes. He finally reminds readers of Catholic teaching on repentance, e.g., Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of penance.
This book is especially rich reading in Holy Week, the Paschal Triduum and throughout the Easter season, particularly for the clergy as well as for Catholics tempted to despair about the Church.