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Bishop Knestout’s Homily at the Mass for Victims of Child Abuse 4/16/24

There is imagery in the scriptures that associates stones and bread. Jesus in the desert is tempted to transform the stones, that look something like baked bread on the desert floor, into food to sustain him during his 40 day fast in the desert.

I heard it once said that the human body can only survive a few minutes without air, and a few days without water, a few weeks without food.

Bishop Knestout during his homily at the Mass for Victims of Child Abuse

But beyond practical needs for food warmth and shelter, we all have spiritual needs for love and relationships with God and neighbor. We don’t always notice or appreciate our spiritual needs as intensely as our physical needs. We can go for long periods of time, in fact for much of our lives, without acknowledging God or our need for his grace and the help of His spirit.

God continues to physically sustain us through this life, even while we sin, in the hope that reconciliation and restoration might be possible. God is generous and merciful and allows us freedom to accept or reject him. At the same time, he reaches out to us in love and communication constantly, seeking to inspire in us a belief in his existence and a trust in his offer of eternal life.

The moment will come for all of us when this physical life ends, the veil is removed between this life and the next, and we must account for all our actions, good and bad. Then we will no longer live by faith, for we will see God face to face, as he is. Our lives and actions will be laid bare, and we will be consoled in God’s mercy, and be accountable for our actions and unrepented sins.

Paul witnesses and consents to Stephen’s execution. Yet he was forgiven by Stephen in the moments before his death. St. Paul later recognized how mercifully he was treated in spite of his grave sins against life and love. He spends his life trying to make up for the sins of his past, and he sacrifices his life and all his energies for that purpose.

In Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Church takes an opportunity to recognize our past weakness and sins, our failures in protecting the innocent. We bear within us, as a Church, grief for injuries committed and regret for our failures and neglect.

At the same time, with the generosity of Stephen, and the determination of St. Paul, we assist one another. We receive the help of Stephen’s prayers, just as St. Paul did and was forgiven. We receive the benefit of St. Paul’s, teaching, mission, and actions of reparation, to overcome the damage done by sins. So, the Church today imitates these two great saints with our fervent prayers for healing, and reparation, and our actions of vigilance and repair.

May God assist us to overcome complacency, and may St. Paul and St. Stephen accompanied by all the saints, assist us with their prayers, so that we witness faithfully by word and deed, with lives of charity and goodness, to the new life and love to which we are called.