My hope is that, as we have worked through this week, your understanding of the very real heartbreak of thousands of Catholics this week is deeper, that you are more filled with grace when you hear these headlines. That you are less quick to jump on your self-righteous religious horse and pound broken men and women into the ground because, not only have their baptisms been nullified this week, but you're here heroically to tell them that maybe they were never baptized at all because they clearly don't understand this whole enterprise. They don't even know what God wants, so of course, they were wrong before they were even wrong.
It is just amazing to me how quick we are to condemn someone else when we don't understand them, rather than thinking there might be something wrong with our understanding. So my hope is that this week, you've seen how the Catholic church's use of intermediaries is something that is actually deeply ingrained in Judeo-Christian religious history, and it's something that we, as self-righteous as we are in our own doctrine, really ought to learn something more about.
So we're back, then, to where we started - with thousands of our brothers and sisters who are waking up this week uncertain of where they stand with God because the person who has mediated their faith for them has messed up. A number of priests have said, "we" baptize you instead of "I" baptize you.
This is not merely a word, not merely a ritual. This is the priest's breaking of the very covenant with which he took his vows. He said that he would be the one to stand between men and God, but the moment he says "we" instead of "I," what he says is that he's not the one standing there. He has abdicated his position. He has chosen, quite frankly, not to be a priest. He's said he's not the one who mediates, but that the whole community does.
That's why this is so difficult. Not only does it shake the souls of the baptized, but it shakes the foundations of the Catholic church's organizational structure. If the priest is not willing to be an "I," if he's not confident and convicted enough in his calling that he knows he is the guy, if he doesn't take seriously his vows as an intermediary and understand the importance of the position to which he has committed his life, then whole thing starts to crumble.
But there is a silver lining here, especially for those of us who want to be so ready to jump in with all of our personal understanding of why "we" is better anyway. You see, for most of us, this comes from a doctrine that has taught us God's emphasis on "one anothering" - on being brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been raised in the culture of the fellowship, of what it means to be on this journey together, of doing life together. As one of my favorite pastors likes to say, we live a faith where "we are all just walking each other Home."
And if that is true, if we're all just walking each other Home, if we believe in the glorious beauty of one anothering, if we place a great emphasis on being together and the culture of Christian fellowship, then there's the thing: we have thousands of Catholic brothers and sisters right now who absolutely need a we.
That's right - I said it. Time to live it out. Time to actually be the we that we claim to love so much. Time to demonstrate what it means to have a we in our Christian culture, the goodness of all our togetherness and the value of drawing close to one another in times of heartache and doubt and uncertainty. If you've been out there this week thinking, okay, you can kinda see how it all works but you still think the Catholic church would be better off with a we, then it's time to prove it. Time to live it. Time to be it.
Show up. Stand in the gap.