Those well versed in forensic examination or courtroom advocacy will often remark that the quality of an answer, and the weight or evidential value which it may enjoy, is dependent upon the question which prompts it. This question, posed by Simon Peter (Jn 6:68) is well known. Its context is of some importance. John places this encounter after two pivotal events in Christ's ministry: a) the demonstration of Jesus' power over the elements and his exhortation to the disciples in the boat: 'Be not afraid' (Jn 6:21); and b) His self-revelation as the 'bread of life' (Jn 6:35). Why is this important? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that notwithstanding His demonstration of authority and the miracles He performed, we are told 'many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him'. John presents these as the circumstances in which Jesus questioned Simon Peter. The ensuing dialogue also affirms a simple reality: the response to Christ's invitation cannot be imposed, but must be the product of free and informed will. Simon Peter not only frames a question, he provides the answer:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God."
In the light of the allegations and counter allegations which have dominated the press in recent weeks, these sentiments are likely to resonate with many of the faithful (clergy and lay). If any part of the allegations are well-founded, it is clear that some members of the Church hierarchy have themselves (through their personal conduct or acquiescence) drawn back from the mission of Christ for which they were called and consecrated. We should not be surprised when we hear of those who feel unable to remain within "the Church"; especially with suggestions that concealment has been practised at the highest level. For others, there is a recognition that they are called to serve the Church in ensuring that the sacrilege and injustice, which has fuelled the actions of the few, is repaired. For those courageous enough to respond to this call, there is an immediate issue of concern: who can be trusted or relied upon? Or, in the words of Simon Peter: "To whom shall we go?" This is no mere play with words. It is a valid question which needs to be ventilated and resolved in an open and transparent manner. As various members of the American Episcopate add their own voice to those of their colleagues concerning the fall out from the Archbishop Vigano 'Testimony', what should be done to guide the faithful?
On this feast of the "Beheading of John the Baptist" is there a voice in the wilderness capable of placing us back on the right path?
Word on FireTo many within the Church, the name Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, will be familiar. A gifted communicator and evangelist, he is a man of prayer who has displayed a consistent willingness to engage with the challenges of secular culture and influence; inside and outside of the Church. He has over many years pursued a unique ministry through the highly effective: publications: www.wordonfire.org. In a recent posting, he has advocated the establishment of a lay panel of scrutiny sponsored by the Holy See. However, he rightly observes that a spiritual response is in an indispensable component of our collective and individual strategy.
Perhaps in this we might start by placing ourselves before Christ Our King and Redeemer in the Blessed Sacrament, replicating the response of Simon Peter:
"We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God."
As we ask for the grace to recognise new life and renewal in His Church, we are also able to draw upon Our Blessed Mother. She who was the first tabernacle and monstrance; recognised by St John the Baptist when still in his mother's womb. Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.