Where to start? My apartment is becoming more and more of a disaster. :-) Not dirty, just messy. Papers multiply overnight all over the floor. I'm angry, among other things, and not clear yet what it is about - and actually feel like throwing (as in THROWING) more papers and books and things on floor space that isn't yet covered. I won't. I'm quite civilized much of the time. Sigh ...
Anger, of course, is often a cover emotion for others. Grief. It's hard to let go of the Mission. I'm still not clear on the concept that Connie is dead. And I'm wrestling with stuff. It's messy.
Yesterday's first reading was the call of Jeremiah. You know - "I've known you since before you were in the womb ... I've always known you ... and I want you to ... " "Oh, but I can't. I'm just a kid. Or I'm too old. Or I'm sick. Or I'm ... " (insert your own excuses). Our parish (or yours) might say, "We're aging. Or, we're too small a congregation, now... Or, if we give money away, we won't have enough to survive... " Or .... Excuses, excuses, for not speaking and living the truth - God's truth.
A week or two ago, I posted a poem I wrote about 20 years ago, but that also spoke to me of a situation that we became aware of in recent times - a story of historical abuse in our diocese. And I rage at innocent children being molested by clergy or others in power. And I wondered - should I have posted the poem? Should I have used the word 'bastard' for those who abuse children? Should I remove the post? And as I pondered, I realized that it was not the perpetrators of the abuse that the church protected by shifting clergy to other parishes and dioceses, but its own image.
Enter Jeremiah. The prophet who spoke God's Word when his belly burned from holding it in. The prophet calling us to recognize our sin - the ways in which we aren't loving and compassionate - especially towards those who are vulnerable or marginalized.
Enter also one of our priests who has been doing wonderful ministry as a part-time prison chaplain. (Our Prime Minister and his conservative government in their 'wisdom' are cutting these part-time chaplaincy positions across the country end of March - and that's another story - and shame, shame, shame on them). So, Tim said something like, "It's challenging working with people who have harmed and who have been harmed." Ahhh ... another dimension. He sees the whole person.
Harmed and been harmed.
Then there was a recent situation in Montreal of an alleged sexual assault at a church (I say alleged because that's what we're supposed to say when it hasn't been to court). The man was caught and imprisoned, and a few days ago took his own life. The whole story is tragic.
Hold up the mirror, Ros. What are some of the truths in all of this? It's good, sometimes, to be Anglican with our traditional both/and. Once we let go of certainties and learn to live with ambiguities, life is much more creative and challenging. Messy, but challenging.
Firstly, I hate that people molest and abuse children and other vulnerable people. Of course.
Secondly, the people who harm were in all likelihood also harmed when they were vulnerable. Yet many who were abused as children, grow up to protect children. Marie-Reine, a Duplessis orphan who was part of the Mile End Mission community until she died, led a tragic life of abuse, abandonment and loneliness. She was Broken. As an adult, Marie-Reine became a school crossing guard, protecting children.
So, zap! I left the poem up. I left the word 'bastard' for the priest who molested dozens of children. The passion of the poem lives.
However! The man who assaults was once an infant. I would like to think he had a mother who held him in her arms and loved him in his innocence and that he was a sweet little boy. I don't know whether he was loved. I don't know his story. It is likely he was abused in some way by someone. I don't excuse his abuse of others. Judgement and forgiveness are both God's - and between God and each of us. And mercy.
We have to be willing to live with the uncertainties and ambiguities. With standing firmly in one place - re protecting our children and condemning abuse - yet holding an awareness that the one who harms was also harmed.
I can't accept what our government seems to be saying - that people who harm are irredeemable. Where would we draw the line for irredeemable? We harm people, too. With our tongues. With silences. With secret-keeping. By creating insiders and outsiders. By dismantling the gun registry even though the police across the country told us how valuable it was. By looking away rather than seeing the homeless person ...
So, I come back to Sister Marjorie Raphael's statement: "It's all about love." And the Epistle yesterday - 1 Corinthians 13. 1 - 13 - none of our gifts and talents and work ... nothing matters if we don't have love. And, I'd add, compassion.
|Rembrandt - Return of the Prodigal Son|