What Fr. Zuckerman offered his listeners was not a rehash of statistics and explanations, but a way of coping with the trouble. He finds words of shame, but also of solace and hope and healing in the Bible.
I've heard my share of confessions as a priest but let me go out on a limb here-I strongly doubt I shall ever hear a confession of sin of either the gravity or the depravity committed in the not too distant future by the young man we hear about in Samuel today.
The illustrious King David was a handsome, ruddy, and newly anointed king-a young man with such hope and promise, chosen by God, innocent and tender. In a very short time, though, he would be brought to his knees by sin so grievous it boggles the imagination. For in just a few years, he would see from his rooftop, bathing in a pool, the beautiful married woman Bathsheba, and he would use the position given him by God in a cruel and shameless manner by seducing her, the wife of one of his most trusted field commanders, Uriah.
And remember, the story gets Worse. When Bathsheba conceives due to their adultery, and David cannot place the blame on her husband, he sends Uriah to the front lines where he knows he'll be killed so that his and Bathsheba's adulterous secret will be safe.
And David found himself in a place of darkness unlike any he knew before. And few here would doubt that this was a man who needed healing.
It is rare when a sin affects only the sinner. Most always, others are involved, as in Davids case. And in fact, all of Israel became tainted by the scandal-especially because David's power over Bathsheba was so very total. She was a woman in an ancient patriarchal culture with basically no rights whatsoever; the same was said for children. And people expected then, as we do now, more from the ones who are ordained by God to serve. And, when that sacred trust is shattered, God's people become shattered. And Israel needed God's healing, too, along with David.
"What followed David's sin-repentance and healing-was nothing less than the most glorious time in Israel's history," says the author. "For as Israel once rose from the sin in its midst and regained its sense of integrity and peace, so shall the Church. So shall we."
The scripture scholar Robert Alter suggests that no one in the entire Bible has quite the range of experience- from soaring heights to crashing lows-as did David. Today we view him at one of the heights-his being anointed by Samuel as king. The dark valleys soon would follow.
I am from back East, and I have a lot of friends, know a lot of Jesuits, and have a good deal of family back there. Many live in Boston.
I cannot go through a single day anymore without hearing stories of sin and deceit that, sad to say, easily equal the sin of King David at his worst.
And I think there is not a single person from Boston to Yakima who is unaware of that sin and who isn't shocked by the sheer scope and tragedy of it all.
Not all, but some of it is reminiscent of David's sin. For the sins we see on the front of newspapers, magazines, and TV screens in America, too, were committed by those ordained by God to serve. And they were sins that preyed upon and destroyed the lives of our most innocent and defenseless.
Priest friends of mine in Boston are reluctant to wear their Roman collars these days, in a city that is defined by its Catholic makeup.
One diocese has already gone bankrupt; others are teetering on the brink. Some of the most influential Catholic prelates in the land have lost the faith of massive numbers of parishioners, and every publication I've read, religious and otherwise, from far left to far right, all agree that it's going to get worse before it gets better.
And in the midst of all that is going on in our beloved Church with this scandal, we hear readings such as these.
St. Paul tells us we are to live as children of light, that we are to take no part of vain deeds done in darkness but rather condemn them, "the things these people do in secret."
There is no doubt, the body of Christ needs healing. The weakest and most innocent among us need healing. And for many, perhaps for all of the victims of this abuse, full healing may never come. And if there's one thing we can be certain of, it's that Jesus Christ is weeping for his Church. And so are we.
In that graphic image of Jesus making a paste out of clay and his own saliva, I think few in this church today would not feel the need for some of that clay to be pressed over our eyes, over our hearts, over our spirits too.
The overwhelming number of good and faithful priests, surveys show, are bitter, angry, despondent over this scandal, which taints the entire priest- hood. Any enemies of the Church these days are having a field day.
Yet, as so often we've done before, especially in times of trial, we do look to the Scripture for what to cling to and for what to expect.
So what do Bible stories of healing such as this one mean for us? What does it mean that Jesus throughout his life dispelled demons of all sorts, whether demons of infirmity, or darkness, or fear or literal demons themselves- what does it mean by the fact that all of them lose their power and flee before him?
It means that his promise to us is true. It means that the light will not, cannot be overpowered by darkness, by sin, by demons, by any heinous deeds such as the ones coming to light before us.
We need healing. Let us remember our elder brother David who needed healing too and who, like us, thought that peace would never be felt within him again.
I think today Jesus says to the Church: Do not worry, little flock. I am with you. And as David's secrets were exposed, bringing him deepest shame, it was only by his secrets coming to light that healing could come.
Jesus himself did not go through his life devoid of shame and humiliation, and he committed no sin at all. Do we really expect his Church should be immune? And in all this, we, too, carry his cross.
What followed David's sin- repentance and healing- was nothing less than the most glorious time in Israel's history. For as Israel once rose from the sin in its midst and regained its sense of integrity and peace so shall the Church. So shall we.
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