A Brief Reflection
by Fr. Joseph Woodill, Rockville MD
I was at the Washington Town Hall Meeting. I tried to be attentive to how the administration understood what was happening. From the beginning it seemed to me that, for whatever reason, our church administration didn’t listen well enough to hear what was being said.
I overheard someone, while putting the rules of the meeting on a board, mutter that this is necessary because these people just don’t listen. When the resignation of our bishops was suggested (many times over), it was understood as ignorance (a short history lesson was given) or just stupid (without the bishops there is no church). But our problem is not one of mere form (best practices or a new slate of administrators or correcting ignorance), it is a matter of substance, a matter of love.
One side of the coin of love is vulnerability—which is why it is so costly. Without vulnerability, there is no love. When a woman marries and loves a man, she may become pregnant and her vulnerability to love is there for all to see. A man in his love makes vulnerable all of his hopes, dreams, and future. To have children is to be vulnerable to a future that you cannot control. We teach that the impassible God became human for our sake, for our salvation. One might very well translate this as the God who is beyond vulnerability becomes vulnerable in his loving embrace. Without this there is no salvation, no faith. The “token” or pledge of this love is the Holy Spirit. Its way is called theosis. Without love that dies for the other—the way of Jesus—we are not Christians.
I would hope that we could construe what has been happening as a question of love. Have the people of God been loved? Or, has love been trampled on? The only way to heal a love that has been torn apart in this way is to make oneself (as a pledge, as a token of one’s intent) vulnerable to love. I believe that this is the way that the calls to have our bishops step down should be understood. The bishops (or, perhaps, as few as even one of them) could explain that what they did was done from love and that if their people don’t see that this is so, then they will step down. What is to be lost? Be vulnerable and put yourself in the hands of those you serve in love. The very worse that could happen is that a bishop who is misunderstood could in the name of love find a new measure of peace. The sign of a Christian is that he or she can have hope in a future that he or she does not control—because of love.
Fr Joseph Woodill