Dearly Beloved in Christ:
I thank my God each time I think of you, and when I pray for you, I pray with joy (cf. Philippians 1:3). Thank you for the gift of your faith and in the many ways that you strive to give credible witness to the Gospel, in spite of the many challenges you encounter in your daily life.
Two Fridays ago we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The First Reading for the day recounted the story of the Israelites in the desert, how they grumbled faithlessly against God and, as punishment for their hardheartedness, experienced the deadly bites of saraph serpents (see: Numbers 21:4-9). What is even more curious about this story is how they were to be healed: “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live” (v. 9). They who were scourged on account of their faithlessness were to be healed by their faithful adherence to God’s command!
The bronze serpent which brought temporal healing to those who gazed at it with faith and in obedience to God’s word in the Old Testament was to become a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ by which we receive the gift of eternal salvation: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
As a Church we are still reeling under the pain caused by the clergy sex abuse scandals. This difficulty is further exacerbated by internal strife in some quarters of the Church as a result of the ongoing crises. Locally, our hearts are dismayed by the recent allegations of sexual abuse that were levied against a priest in our archdiocese. The Archdiocese has since put out a statement in which it affirmed its resolve to take such allegations very seriously, cooperate with civil authorities to ensure that they are promptly and properly investigated, as well as commit its resources to eliminate such unacceptable actions.
So why did I begin this week’s pastoral letter with a note of gratitude? Certainly not to celebrate the upheavals! That would be diabolic on my part! Rather, I wanted to exhort us not to lose sight of the centrality of our faith in life. Yes, as a Church, there is need for spiritual purification even as we seek to address these matters honestly in order to prevent them from repeating. The ongoing scandal, like the deadly sting of the saraph serpents, is understandably rocking the faith of many. I would like to encourage us to be steadfast and “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of [our] faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
We are in this race together! We are one Holy Family Parish, united in the joy of the Holy Spirit and in charity, as missionary disciples. Let us keep our focus on Jesus through fervent prayer, reparation, charity and works of penance. God alone can bring us the healing and salvation we so desperately need.
In Christ’s love,
Fr. Jude Ekenedilichukwu Ezuma