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#GodToo

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent (Mattins)

What does God make of the #MeToo campaign?

In recent years, we have seen high profile figures accused and convicted of horrible abuses of their power and influence. While this is horrible in itself, the fact that many of these abuses have been at the hands of leaders within Christ’s Church is clearly rocking the faith of so many people. It’s understandable that members of the clergy are being regarded with suspicion and that the loss of trust in the Church is growing.

Yet, we also have the other problem of false accusation in which people’s lives are blighted by mistaken, misunderstood or even malicious individuals. The destruction to an innocent person’s reputation by false accusation is devastating even if there is a clear proof of innocence.

A proof of innocence? Surely, it’s innocent until proven guilty. If only members of society would remember that…

So what does God say to those who cry #MeToo?

[PAUSE]

“Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate.For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.”

That sounds very much like a slap in the face for anyone who has suffered abuse or has been wrongly accused. Does this mean that we are to roll over and just take the abuse?

If we know anything about God, it is that He is good and righteous. We believe that He will come to be our judge. All the way through Holy Scripture, we learn of His fairness from hearing the blood of Abel crying from the ground, granting the barren Sarah a son while yet comforting Hagar, restoring Job’s fortune, restoring the sight of the blind, up to the glorification of the Faithful in the Revelation of St John the Divine. Do we think that God does not hear the complaints of those who have been denied justice?

The fact of the matter is that in the act of becoming Christians, we have to be prepared for our faith to be tested. “If thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble.Cleave unto him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy last end.” This is why the Bishop gives each candidate a little slap when they are confirmed to remind them of this. As far as this life is concerned there will always be injustice. True justice can only be meted out by the hand of God Himself Who alone is in possession of all the facts. To forget that and seek our own judgment is an act of faithlessness in God.

[PAUSE]

But we have been given law by which crimes and injustice can be shown for what they are. No human being should ever have to undergo sexual harassment or any form of abuse. Perpetrators of abuse must be punished, and God’s Love for both victim and perpetrator will ensure that this will happen. But we have to keep faithful and not become vigilantes seeking our own punishment on those who have abused us. The #MeToo movement highlights two injustices – the silencing of those who have been abused and those who have had their lives ruined by what amounts to being guilty until proven innocent. Neither is acceptable and yet the balance is very difficult to strike. We cannot sacrifice the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” for any reason for otherwise we will find ourselves back in slavery to those whose whims declare what guilt and innocence are, and thus throwing God aside in favour of man-made laws which have caused so much suffering in the past.

We forget, however, that the rule of law is God’s gift to us, and we must learn to trust it and use it appropriately.

We can look at the examples of the saints like St Oscar Romero shot while saying Mass after asking the United States to stop arming the corrupt Salvadoran Government during the Civil War, or like St Martin of Porres who through patience overcomes the racial discrimination which prevent him from taking Religious Orders and serving the poor in Peru, or like St Damien of Molokai who would rather succumb to leprosy than allow the voice of those shunned by Society on account of their disease.

The approach of the saints is a preparation to suffer injustice in order to achieve justice – a greater justice that pours down from the Throne of God. Our duty, as Christians, is to observe the two commandments that Our Lord gives us. When faced with injustice we turn to God first in prayer and pray, pray, pray so fervently that it hurts. Then we look at people, not at abstract laws and theoretical precepts and we seek true justice. While those who abuse and hurt and murder must and will be punished, every Christian must look for the good of all people, for each and every one of us is a victim of Sin either by being on the receiving end of it or by committing it. Humanity cannot simply be divided up into those who are oppressed and those who are oppressors because oppression by Evil does not work that way. We are all victims of Evil, and it is this injustice that is resolved through the Cross of Christ. Our motivation for justice must spring from Love and not a desire for power.

Our Lord is baptised in order to associate with everyone whom Evil touches. He identifies with sinners so that sinners can be identified with Him and find in Him, not only justice, but mercy, peace and love too. Ultimately, we will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men: for as his majesty is, so is his mercy.

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