I read on the Catholic newswires this morning of a priest who has been arrested in Missouri for trying to arrange, through emails, a sexual encounter with a teenaged girl (who was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent). The particular newswire provided links about the story, one to a newspaper in St. Louis, and one to the web site of the parish where the priest served as pastor. I visited the web site and found the question on the main page that appears on many parish web sites: "Interested in becoming Catholic?" It struck me and I asked my own question: Why would anyone be interested in becoming Catholic, given the fact of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the scandal of its coverup by bishops and others in church authority, as well as continuing events like the one we hear about in Missouri this morning? (Of course, this priest is innocent of this crime until proven guilty.)
The fact is that people are still interested in becoming Catholic, despite the obvious sins of the Church, its ordained leaders, and its members. I don't think that people are blind to these realities. Every one of us is a sinner and the Church itself is made up of sinners like you and me. I think about the "rock" upon whom the Church is built.
"I don't even know the man," Peter said. "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," Peter also said. This sinner—the man who denied he even knew Jesus in the Lord's hour of greatest need—and the man who would confess his love three times around that charcoal fire on the seashore—is the rock upon whom the Church is built.
It is sad when anyone strays away from their commitment to Gospel values. When Church leaders do so, it is doubly sad. But, as I said in yesterday's post, God is still doing the work of redemption here and now. And that is nothing to be sad about. The other evening at the parish at which I was giving a talk, a woman told me that she has two adult sons (in their 40s) still living in her home. She said that they no longer are connected with the Church. She laments this, as do so many parents. She said that they are—in a word—sad men who are trying to find happiness in all the wrong places.
There are so many out there trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. It doesn't help that we are all bombarded with advertising and marketing that tell us where happiness can be found. A few years ago, while staying at a hotel for a conference, this came home to me. I opened the hotel room door one morning and found a copy of USA Today on the floor outside my room. I brought it into the room and turned to the "Life" section. I noticed a small advertisement at the top right hand corner of the first page of the section. It said this: "Heaven: Now Available at Best Buy." This summed up so much about our society. Sorry, folks, but you are not going to find heaven at Best Buy.
I believe that the search for happiness in all the wrong places eventually leads many people to the realization that there is more to life than what you can find at Best Buy. And I think this is what leads people to begin to listen to the many ways that God may be calling them into a relationship with him. And this is what leads people to our doors.
Thanks for listening to a non-liturgical and non-musical post today (or maybe it is). When we pray and sing at Mass this coming Sunday, let's all bring to mind those who are searching in all the wrong places. Let's pray that they will open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the presence of our God, who calls us all. Let's pray that God leads them to our open doors. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.