ONCE again, Jesus insists on claiming to call himself the “bread of life” in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:51-58).
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world, ” he remarks.
His words are consoling and reassuring, but are difficult to accept for many people in these days and age when the milieu in the Catholic Church is not favorable due to another devastating news of systemic abuse of thousands of minors by some priests and bishops over periods of times?
CNN news reported that ”a new grand jury report says that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 predator priests have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims.”
How could people fully accept the words of Jesus as the bread of life from priests and bishops when the Catholic has been a source of ’death’ in thousands of child victims, taking their innocence and destructing their future? How could they put their trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church when some of their bishops failed horrendously to protect children from further abuse?
As a member of the clergy, I feel ashamed of these horrible acts of violence towards innocent children that my fellow priests committed and am absolutely disgusted by some of the authorities of the church. It will take decades before the Catholic Church can recover from pain and sorrow despite all its efforts to safeguard children from sexual abuse since 2005 when the U.S. bishops approved the Charter to Protect Children and Young People.
The temptation for many people would be to abandon their Catholic faith and to keep mistrusting its institution. But should they lose their faith in Jesus, the bread of life for the world?
Should they claim that their faith in Jesus is bigger than any institution or hierarchy? Should they appreciate many of us priests and bishops who, although carry the ”sins of our fathers”, are faithful and dedicated to our vocation and ministries?
Granted that there are not enough apologies to make and millions of dollars to make restitution for the scandal of the Catholic Church, should we give up on its relevance and means of transformation in the lives of people and the world? Would we shut off our eyes and minds completely to the positive contributions that the Catholic Church had made for the progress of humanity? Or should we still hope for its enduring life and renewal? The choice is ours to make.
Meanwhile, we continue to take on the Spirit of Jesus, the bread of life, within the circles of our families, friends, and neighbors. Church happens not only in worship places but also in the confines of our homes. Church happens when we offer our gifts and talents for the life and progress of the world, the society, and our fellow men and women.
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.