Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 17 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Mariana of Jesus
home iconChurch
line break icon

What can I do now to help the Church? Ezekiel’s answer and Jesus’, too


Catholic Diocese of Saginaw | CC BY-ND 2.0

Fr. Jeff Kirby - published on 09/03/18

"Don’t worry, Father, no bad priests are going to take me from my Jesus. But I still want to do something ..."

Recently, an older woman approached me after a Mass where I preached about the sexual abuse scandals and cover-ups. She grabbed my hand, starred me in the eyes, and said, “Don’t worry, Father, no bad priests are going to take me from my Jesus.” “Amen,” I thought. But she wasn’t done. After her declaration, she seemed more perplexed. Stilling holding my hand, she asked me, “What can I do now?”

It’s a simple question, but one that has echoed throughout salvation history. A look into the narrative of this question can help us to find a solid answer for our own times. In this process, we might be surprised to find an answer already right in front of us.

After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon — known to be the dwelling place of God on earth – the Chosen People were taken into captivity. No one could have imagined such a reality. The Temple was razed, the Holy City of Jerusalem ravaged, and the promises of God veiled in shadows. How could the very Temple of God be overtaken? How could the City of David be demolished?

Not sure what to do, in desperation, the Israelites turned to the Prophet Ezekiel and pleaded with him for guidance: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?” (Ezekiel 33:10)

Sound familiar?

In our own age, we suffer a similar devastation. How can the very Church of Jesus Christ be plagued by sexual scandals? How can shepherds of God’s people be so negligent? How can these things happen in the Church, which is to be the sacrament – the presence — of God on earth?

As a help to us, what was Ezekiel’s response to God’s people? The Lord calls his people to spiritual conversion, transparency, and moral integrity. As he describes God’s solution, the imagery of a shepherd holds center stage.

In describing a shepherd, certain attributes stand out in the visions of Ezekiel (and throughout salvation history). Attempting to paraphrase and encapsulate these elements, they could be listed as: poverty in spirit, sorrow over evil, meekness, a hunger for holiness, mercy, purity of heart, seeking of peace, and a willingness to suffer for righteousness.


Read more:
What is reparation? And why is it my best response to evil?

These qualities can be described as archetypal. They are each, and in different ways, upheld and sung throughout the biblical narrative.

The synopsis was given to the human family in its most precise form by the Lord Jesus in the “Beatitudes” of his Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). In the eight counsels of the Beatitudes, offered by Jesus Christ, believers can find the sure path to happiness, holiness and, yes, true Church reform. In the midst of the scandals and cover-ups, disappointments and outrage of our age, if we are willing to trust – in spite of the darkness — in the living God of our forefathers, and hold fast to the way of holiness that he teaches and modeled for us, then evil will be exposed and goodness will triumph.

This is why the first Beatitude speaks of a poverty of spirit. It is only in approaching God with a true acknowledgement of our profound need for him that we can authentically labor (and suffer) for righteousness. It is this poverty of spirit that leads us to a sorrow over evil (the second Beatitude) and to an appreciation of our true place in his work (the third Beatitude).

These three movements cause a pining within our souls and we begin to hunger and thirst for holiness (the fourth Beatitude). This craving is oftentimes called the intermission, not only because it references food, but because it marks a shift in the focus of the Beatitudes.

After a true thirst for righteousness in born within us, we can now be merciful to our neighbor, pure of heart, and a peacemaker (the fifth, sixth, and seventh Beatitudes).


Read more:
Dorothy Day, Bishops, and the Church

This fluidity of the Beatitudes displays their inner logic and shows them to be a summary, an expose, of a way of life. They culminate in the eighth Beatitude, which is a willingness to suffer persecution. It is no surprise that only the first and eighth Beatitude specifically address God’s kingdom. The first Beatitude is the doorway, while the eighth is the commission to go and share the dynamic life we have received.

And this beatitudinal way of life, and its summons, stands for all believers. It was the veiled answer to Ezekiel. It’s the answer to the older woman at my parish. It’s my answer.

The Beatitudes are the answer offered to all those who will never allow bad priests to take us away from our Jesus and who desperately want to see the Church credible, consistent, and convincing in its worship of God, the proclamation of the Gospel, and its service to young people and the poor.


Read more:
Why nostalgia ruins marriages … and why it makes us disenchanted with our Church

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Annalisa Teggi
Amputee from the waist down is thankful every day to be alive
Zelda Caldwell
Mystery of crosses on walls of Church of the Holy Sepulchre may h...
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Philip Kosloski
St. Padre Pio: His life, his miracles and his legacy
Philip Kosloski
Catholic prayers for strength
Cerith Gardiner
7 Joys to be had from a lengthy marriage
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.