Here is the video and homily from tonight’s Prayer Service for Survivors of Abuse and healing from trauma.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and it is fitting to gather this evening to pray that all children will have a happy and healthy youth where they will come to know the love of God in the person of Jesus. We pray that all who interact with young people in their journey of growth and maturity not only protect them, but help them grow in purity of heart and holiness.
Tonight, we pray especially for those who in their youth were abused and harmed in any way especially at the hands of clerics, or anyone representing the Church. I wish to acknowledge the pain and suffering – the trauma which this causes. I know from visiting with victim survivors the deep wounds left by such unconscionable, criminal behavior. While apologies are insufficient, it is still important to express our sorrow, apology and resolve to prevent these situations in the future and ensure that no offenses will ever be covered up.
This evening I also wish to make an appeal to all members of the Church, that while we have accomplished much in recent years to make our parishes, schools and other institutions ‘safe’ for our youth and vulnerable adults, we now need to focus much more effort on helping our people recover from the trauma of their experience. As Church we have made great strides in the ‘protect’ part of our commitment to the People of God, and now we must fulfill the latter and lingering promise to ‘heal’ those who still suffer.
I was recently reminded that we as Church can and must do better in how we respond to people who share with us their experience of being abused. It is important for all of us to realize – beginning with me – the courage it takes for someone who has been abused to share their story, especially with the institution where it occurred. Today we also know that the trauma that is created from abuse seldom remains with that person alone, but is also extended to their family and loved ones, and often into our parish families as well.
Indeed, pain exists at many levels, and we have much to learn and much work to do. It is good to be reminded as well as consoled by the words of Scripture – the teaching of Jesus we heard again tonight. Part of the ‘healing’ we need and seek is to live more fully as Jesus.
The Beatitudes teach us there is great blessing to be found in humility, meekness, mercy, simplicity and purity of heart. There is great blessing to be found in helping others find peace and discovering our true identity as children of God.
And it may even be difficult to hear – difficult to understand – but even in these Beatitudes, Jesus says there is a blessing for those who mourn. And, I am sure that blessing extends to those who mourn their loss of innocence that was stolen from them as children in their youth, who mourn in so many other ways because of this trauma that was inflicted upon them. I am sure that a part of that blessing is Christ – is Christ present with these people in a very personal and accompanying way.
Let us renew our resolve tonight to accompany those who need our presence, and understanding as they seek to find healing. Let us renew our commitment to one another to build parish communities where people feel welcome, comfortable and ‘safe’ in sharing their stories with us.
In living the Beatitudes in concrete ways, we will become like the Good Samaritan who did not pass by the man lying beaten and alone in the ditch. He was not indifferent to the person in need, but was rather willing to enter into his suffering in order to help him recover from his wounds. This is where we are as a family of faith today, at a point where we must overcome our own indifference to the trauma others endure, and be capable of helping them recover from their wounds and find a welcome home in the family of God, their family of faith.
For some, perhaps many, recognizing, let alone discussing this lingering wound in our church – especially in the lives of our members, can cause fear and anxiety. We need to hear again the words of the Risen Jesus: “Do not be afraid.” “Peace I leave you.” The Risen Jesus has his own wounds to show us, and it is in these wounds that we find healing. It is in the person of the Risen Christ that we find life eternal.
We acknowledge the presence of the Risen Lord with us tonight and always. May the peace that he alone can give fill our hearts, renew our hope and encourage us as we accompany one another to a place of healing, consolation, and renewed trust.