Tomorrow, St. Teresa of Avila faith community will be celebrating its first ever virtual fundraiser: Together in Joy. The volunteers, parishioners , have taken the responsibility of making this annual event happen in the midst of a pandemic. These faithful volunteers have “risen” to the occasion by working feverishly to make it happen and be successful for the mission of St. Teresa’s. Without this event and the financial resources generated, we could not keep going.
I have absolutely no doubt this event will be a huge success but this is not what brings me such joy. It’s the church, the parishioners, God's people, alive with purpose and determination. These parishioners, just by their loving hard work, clearly show the Catholic Church alive and well. The countless volunteers in many ministries are quietly going about their work, strengthening the mission the Christ has given to us and all parishes: to live out the gospel, gather at the Eucharist, pray, form our people in the truths of our faith. Our fundraiser helps to make this possible as we support the staff and volunteers, care for our buildings, and build a strong foundation for the future.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is clearly angry that the Temple has become a place of money exchanging for the ritual sacrifices, profiteering in the process, blurring its very purpose: to be a house of prayer. Jesus enters this noisy, raucous scene and “cleanses” it by overturning the tables of the money changers. His actions were in preparation for his own Passion and death, which would forever end the system of the endless sacrifice of the animals as a way of seeking forgiveness and worshipping the living God. Jesus would become the new, living Temple.
Well, the Temple of Christ’s Body, his church, is in desperate need of cleansing these days. The endless scandals of sexual abuse, the coverup of our bishops, the advancement up the hierarchical ladder of authority by men, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who created a web of deceit. The children, the teens, the young people and adults who have been used and manipulated for evil purposes by some of our leaders is beyond tragic.
I am filled with sorrow and shame that innocent, faithful, trusting people have been hurt so badly by men who are supposed to be good shepherds who lay down their lives for the people, God’s people. My own way forward as a priest and shepherd is to see the church in much broader terms, for the church is not the hierarchy or the pope.
The church, the Catholic Church, is all the volunteers at St. Teresa’s, quietly leading this church into holiness and beauty. These countless people, Catholics, are the ones saving the church. The church is going through a necessary and painful purification. What gives me hope is the very people, parishioners and volunteers who are giving the church a beautiful new face. Thanks be to God!!!