But who do you say that I am? -24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Source: reflectionsofalaycatholic.com

Today’s Gospel features a significant question from Jesus. He is quizzing his followers about who people say he is. They provide answers. However, Jesus pushes them further and his question becomes about who they say he is. “But who do you say that I am?”

I always read that line with an imaginary bold-faced you. I believe that Jesus is addressing that personal question to Peter and every believer, each one of us included. Jesus is more-or-less putting each of us on the spot. He is asking for a commitment.

We do not have to be part of any Christian denomination to make that commitment. It’s a personal thing that often has nothing to do with church. But most of us live out our faith in the context of a church community. And that is often where difficulties can surface. Our personal response gets tied up with other issues in the life and governance of the Christian community.

It requires strong faith and courage to stay committed to Jesus in the context of the church today. The sinfulness of its structures and many of its leaders is glaringly evident. There are plenty of reasons to simply walk away from church.

I’ve read numerous pieces in recent weeks, written by women and men who are asking the question, can I remain in the church, in spite of all that has been exposed? Numerous colleagues and friends have asked me that question. To be honest, I’ve been asked that area most of my forty years as a Jesuit. I’ve never had a standard answer. My response depends a lot on the present situation in the church and my own life situation.

There have been times when I have felt like walking away, turning aside from the church. I remember being asked by someone if I would remain a committed Catholic if I were not ordained.

That’s a tough one! I have a love/hate relationship with church. But I never succeed in walking away. Something brings me around. I think that it’s related to Jesus’ probing question. And my decision to remain in the priesthood, with all of its sinfulness and imperfections, is that I witness over and over the good that happens to people who benefit from the ministry of women and men in the church.

I am absolutely certain that if I had a personal experience of being abused by a member of the hierarchy, I would have walked away. I can understand and accept the pain and anger of the many women and men who have suffered abuse. And, I am aware that I am a white male priest. I  feel totally inadequate writing of why I remain in a sinful church. Surely, by my very gender and position, I am part of the problem.

I’m not sure what I would do if I were a woman. I can understand why women would walk away from church. I’m always surprised that so many choose to stay and to be involved with the life of the church.

Jesus’ probing question challenges me to keep asking why I remain committed to my faith in Jesus. I hope that my service in the church can help people to find freedom and hope with their life issues.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Kathy stewart, R.n. and Msw.
    Posted at 01:15h, 16 September Reply

    Thank you for staying. The difficulty is the old policy of moving people who molested children . The policy has to be you are forgiven if you confess. However there is legal problem of child who was harmed. The policy has to be your next post is jail if they are convicted.

  • John Montague
    Posted at 07:41h, 16 September Reply

    Philip: Thankyou for your forthright honesty. I stay because the gospel is the only message that gives meaning to my life. For me the Eucharist brings me close to Christ, and every year as I get older I am more aware of my sinfulness. So for me these recent revelations are just confirming what I have always known, that all the members of the church are sinners, hypocrites really, but I’m not able to boast.

    I’m called to fill the mission that God made me for. When I feel most at peace i know I’m on the right path, and my conscience is clear. I have learned this through the Church. Mostly from Jesuits, and primarily through the Spiritual Exercises. When I witness people like yourself stay in the church, it encourages me to carry my small crosses. THankyou for everything that you do.

  • Don Taddeo
    Posted at 08:00h, 16 September Reply

    Thanks for this Fr. Phil – we need more of this kind of genuine and honest public discussion on the faith and the state of the Church today.
    Don Taddeo

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 08:18h, 16 September Reply

    I remain in the Church because Jesus is there there.
    Some ordained people in the Church have patronized and roughly treated me.
    They are and always have been “only people”.
    God died on the Cross and rose from the dead.
    God had absolutely nothing to do with their tiresome behavior.
    God willing I will remain faithful.
    In His beauty, God so passionately remains faithful.
    Barbara Lewis

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 09:51h, 16 September Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 12:35h, 16 September Reply

    Permit an addendum?
    I have roughly treated and patronized people.
    Our Parish Church is where I go to Confession and receive forgiveness…and the grace to begin again.
    Except for the occasional, very few, our priests holy and outstanding blessings in our lives.

  • Katherine Tam
    Posted at 17:56h, 16 September Reply

    “I have a love/hate relationship with church. But I never succeed in walking away.”
    “I’m not sure what I would do if I were a woman. I can understand why women would walk away from the church.”

    Thank you for your honest reflection. There have been numerous articles and videos on social media from priests telling us why we should remain in the church, but most of them contain a tinge of moral high ground and make me feel uneasy.

    Your post is the only one that makes me feel understood and accepted even if I were to walk away from the Church. That is true accompaniment. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 14:27h, 17 September Reply

    Firstly Fr Shano, thank you so much for your gut wrenching honesty. As well as, for the transparency with which you have expressed your feelings. It has shocked me at how widespread and pervasive this sex abuse has been in our Catholic Church. Having said that, I feel that I cannot abandon a sinking ship, our church, which has so many truly faithful members and followers of Jesus. I’ll be darned if Satan thinks he can destroy our one holy and apostolic church. We cannot lose hope as we join our fellow Catholics in remaining faithful to our risen Lord, our one true Savior. I am reminded of Jesus saying, I am the way, the truth and the life. So with that being uppermost in my mind I can accept the church warts and all. My identity is defined by my relationship with Jesus and not the church. Though I still need the church and it’s support.

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