I find today’s readings deeply painful in light of the new revelations of the Catholic hierarchy covering up child abuse for decades and of faith leaders who heap praise upon a President who not only abuses widows and orphans arriving on our southern border, but even worse, breaks up families thereby traumatizing children and increasing the numbers of widows and orphans. These profound evils scandalize, horrify, and traumatize us all. I empathize with brothers and sisters who feel compelled to leave an indefensible institutional Church.
The readings call us to the love at the core of the Gospel. The Letter of Saint James leaves no ambiguity: If we are going to be doers of the word and not only hearers, our faith in God is demonstrated by how we “care for widows and orphans in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” I can’t conceive of how we can keep ourselves unstained by the grotesque cover-up of abuse of minors by the hierarchy. However, the Ignatian Solidarity Network rightly focuses our prayer and action on how together we can “care for widows and orphans”—a symbol of the most vulnerable in our midst. Contemplative attention on that prayer and work purifies us as it gives hope to the afflicted.
Mark’s Gospel rings as fresh to me today as it must have when Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of religious and political elites in his own day. The very licentiousness Jesus condemns is sickeningly evident in the Church and government. Yet Christ still empowers us to feel compassion with and for the afflicted and to think, feel, and act in that compassion with every fiber of our being. I believe that is how God renews us and the face of the earth.
How do I focus my thoughts, words, feeling, and action on caring for the most vulnerable in our society?
Alex Mikulich is an anti-racist Catholic social ethicist and activist.