All Catholics Should See “The Keepers”: It Will Scare the Hell Out of You (Sunday Homily)

Readings for 6th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 8: 5-8; 14-17; PS 66: 1-7; 16, 26; I PT 3: 15-18; JN 14: 15-21

I’m presently in Michigan working hard on a book I’m writing about critical thinking.

Meanwhile, my wife, Peggy, is off in Cuba teaching a class of Berea College students there. So I’ve had lots of time to invest in my project. And I’ve nearly finished another draft.

This weekend, my sister, Mary, has come to our cottage in Canadian Lakes for a very welcome visit. Unfortunately, however, the weather has been cold and rainy. So we spent some time watching a startling Netflix series. It’s called “The Keepers.” It’s a shocking account of an unsolved 1969 murder of a young Catholic nun in Baltimore.

Sister Cathy Cesnik, disappeared shortly after confronting authorities about widespread sexual abuse at the prestigious Keough High School, where she taught English. Two priests there used the confessional to identify young females who would be vulnerable to their sexual depredations. Eventually they ended up sharing their victims with school outsiders including police officials. The priests had become pimps who threatened their victims and their families with death if they revealed their abuse.

The young women were so traumatized that the priests’ threats kept them silent for years.

Finally, however, some of Sr. Cathy’s former students decided to investigate her murder.  One thing led to another, and eventually more than 50 women came forward with their shocking tales which brought to light not only cover-ups by the Baltimore archdiocese, but that implicated the Baltimore Police Department as well.

The story with its cynical use of religion to exploit innocent children led to long conversations with my sister about our Catholic backgrounds, about our own experiences in Catholic schools, about confession, and church teachings in general. We found ourselves sympathizing with those (including close friends and relatives) who have left the church as irredeemably corrupt. No wonder, we agreed, that “former Catholics” represent the second largest religious “denomination” in the country (with 22.8 million), behind members of the official Catholic Church at 68.1 million.

Yet, as human beings, those people (all of us) retain a spiritual hunger. So many former Catholics (and others) identify themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”

Today’s liturgy of the word gives us an idea of what that identification might mean. They call us to realize the fact that the Spirit of Christ resides in everyone – and in all of creation. It’s not dependent on going to church, being a Catholic or even a Christian. Rather, it depends on simply opening our eyes and on waking up to the Spirit’s presence everywhere, despite the self-induced sleep and blindness of “the world” – and, I would add, despite the corruption of hypocritical churches.

And where does the Spirit reside? The answer is surprising. The Spirit of Christ is closer to us than our jugular vein. John the Evangelist has Jesus say as much in today’s Gospel reading. Listen to the description again for the first time.

Jesus says:

  1. I am in the Father.
  2. You are in me.
  3. I am in you.

Could anyone be clearer about it? We are all temples. Our bodies, not buildings are the churches that matter. There is nothing in Jesus’ teaching about confession, ritual, priests, doctrine. It’s simply about opening our eyes and embracing the truth that God’s Spirit is like the very air we breathe. It’s like Paul will later say in his Areopagus speech about the “Unknown God” (Acts 17:28): Everyone lives and moves and has being in God’s Spirit.

Recognizing that and acting accordingly is what spirituality (vs. religion) is about. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, such recognition will have us keeping his commandments: to love God wholeheartedly and our neighbor as ourselves. And, of course, loving our neighbors as our self does not mean loving them as much as we love ourselves. It means loving them because they are our self – the Self that is one with God. Put more simply: All of us are one. That’s the essence of Jesus’ teaching.

Later on in Acts 17:28, Paul elaborates. He explains to Greek seekers in the Areopagus that their altar to the “Unknown God” represents an unconscious recognition of the God of Israel.

But that recognition can happen only if we become holy in the sense indicated in today’s first reading. There Philip (and later Peter and John) invoked Christ’s Spirit on Samaritans – the traditional enemies of Jews. Significantly, the apostles do so while laying hands on the Samaritans’ heads. Their action symbolically brings together the left and right sides of the brains of those they touch. The ritual shows that experiencing the Spirit calls not just for logic, but for intuition as well. The Spirit is the one who makes us whole, not simply right or left-brain dominant. “Holiness” means wholeness in that sense – integrating what we know logically and by intuition.

That’s what spirituality means!

I’m writing this at 3:00 Sunday morning. The Keepers is still haunting me and keeping me awake. I’m feeling disturbed, even angry, about the Church’s distortion of faith, God and the Spirit of Christ explained so simply in today’s readings.

Please excuse me for any lack of coherence here.  Blame it on the late hour. But don’t miss watching the film.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

6 thoughts on “All Catholics Should See “The Keepers”: It Will Scare the Hell Out of You (Sunday Homily)”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Yes, yes and yes.

    BTW: there appears to be a scholarly consensus that John the Evangelist was a Greek convert with formal training in Greek philosophy. Our understanding of Spirit always evolves (thankfully), and his input to this evolution is something that has resonated with me, well before I learned what appears to have been his background.

    Another interesting step in the evolution in our understanding of Spirit was Rufus Jones’ explicit use of Spirit as a generic placeholder for our individual experiences of the numinous. According to Pink Dandelion (in his Quaker writings Daniel Dandelion goes by Pink), Jones got the genesis of this usage from a sanitarium-mate in Switzerland, where he had gone for his fragile health. This was ca. 1908.

    Spirit, everywhere and in everything, there for us to notice if we care, and if we dare, is the force that binds us together. When we see Spirit in others, the experience and practice of agape follows, and from that the Fruits of the Spirit.

    Well done!

    And once again, thanks,

    Hank

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike K.
      Amen – a thousand times and more.
      I refer explicitly to your last statement. ‘When we see [the] Spirit in others…’
      You have expressed, for me, where we need to be as Christians — ALL Christians.
      The Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. That is the starting point; the unsurpassed
      gift that should guide us all if we consider ourselves to be disciples, followers of the
      Incarnate God, Jesus (Universal Christ). As opposed to continuing to give lip service.
      This Presence within each person IS what binds
      us together in solidary and unity of purpose. It should guide every action that we take
      and every pronouncement that we make –
      as individuals and as a Community. We will then be known (and judged) by ‘our Fruits.’
      Simple as that, Hank Fay. Jesus showed us how; He gave us the road map. He paid the eventual
      price (as we might have to if we remain firm and true in our convictions).

      Like

  2. Here is something I wrote before going to your blog this morning. Synchronicity?

    May 22 There is more….. (This is the message Liz received in a vision of a dark sky with a few white clouds in it.)

    There is more….. I think of the beginning of Wilber’s SES. Either the Universe is just frisky dirt, or there is something more going on….

    That more is God, it is that LoveRadiance. What does this mean for me? Don’t I constantly forget that deeper Reality? Don’t I live as if this surface world and my life are all that there is. I am forgetful of God, that Radiance infusing everything including my own body. And my mind? Doesn’t that Radiant Being also infuse and actually constitute my mind?

    What would it be like to be constantly aware of that radiance, to see and feel it glowing and radiating within everything? Would it gradually retreat to a background hum, so to speak? Would the gratitude and intense comforting feeling of ultimate safety and being Home at last continue? Could I practice being in that state?

    And yet that Reality is always already he case now, and now, and now…. But I am not aware of it, I am not living it consciously. It is there all around me an within me, but I do not see it, do not feel it. I am asleep to the Divine Nature of all Being.

    HS – Behind all you are is God. You are a finger of God. When you disappear only God remains. That which you always were does not disappear. Die before you die. Die into what you always have been. Your home, your rest, your Realization is in Him (Her, IT). You are That. In all Reality there is only That. All of this apparent pageant is happening within and as That Divine LoveRadiance.

    Become who you really are, let go of your surface identifications and dissolve into your Ultimate Reality. In dying to your temporary surface self, you are reborn as your Eternal Self that you have always been; you were only asleep to It’s Presence.

    Meditation is to dive into your Divine Depths again and again….
    Let go and let all of this and yourself be God. Bask in that Reality beyond which there is nothing. When you are finally Home, all desires end in that Bliss. The ultimate Refuge is in the arms of Divine Love…..

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing this with us, Mike. It is simply beautiful and wonderfully insightfully. You’re right: it is very synchronous with (and much better expressed than) what I found Sunday’s liturgy of the word to be suggesting. It is also very coincidental with what I’m currently studying and praying about in “The Course in Miracles.” I so appreciate your thoughtful contributions to the blog site. — Mike

      ________________________________

      Like

  3. Only one typo that I am aware of; he should be the. But I am not satisfied: I still want to be perfect. Can I let go of that too…..?

    Ego clings on in subtle unrecognized ways.

    Like

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