Ecumenical National Repentance Service


Dear Friends in Christ,

Thank you for inviting me to this National Repentance Service.  I commend all those who have bought us together from all around Australia.

We gather with a particular theme of praying for victims of sexual abuse from Church personnel.  This is one of the tragic and major challenges that all of us face in Australia.  With the Royal Commission in full flight we are constantly brought to repentance and shame for the abominable acts that some within our Churches have committed.  We pray for the victims and we even pray for those who perpetrated these atrocities.

Some years ago when I was about to enter a country Church for a Mass, a stone got caught in my shoe.  I wasn’t able to stop and remove the pebble from my shoe.  We were already progressing down the aisle.  I had to put up with it for the Mass.  People were asking me afterwards – was I ill?   Had I broken a bone or was I injured?  Could they offer me some medical attention?  I just simply told them I had a stone in my shoe and it was causing me to limp and unable to walk properly.

Believe it or not, the stone in the shoe is an ancient Biblical definition of what the word “scandal” means from the Scriptures.  It is like a stone in the shoe of the Churches.  It prevents us from walking the way God wants us to.  It deflects us from our true role and vocation to be reconcilers of Christ in the world, and His presence to the world.

To remove the pebble from the shoe and avoid the scandal in regard to sex abuse by Church personnel is a long but vital journey we all must take together.  It is a journey of conversion and reconciliation and repentance.

We can think of Luke 17:2 when Jesus says that those who do harm to the young, it is better for them to be placed with a millstone around their neck and thrown into the river.  But, at the same time, we must be able to stand alongside the victims and listen to their story and truly believe them and move ourselves from a position of indifference to a position of solidarity with them.

I often think that this terrible episode that we are all enduring in the Churches at the moment is actually a fruit of even a deeper scandal.

The scandal of disunity amongst us Christians creates other scandals.  We are still yet to fulfil the prayer of Jesus from John 17:1 “That they may all be one.”

I commend those who have organised this ecumenical Day of Repentance.  May it bring the Churches together on our knees as we all gather around the Calvary Cross.  From the Calvary Cross comes the blood of the lamb who will ultimately reconcile us with God and with one another.

So, in the shadow of the Cross we gather in this ecumenical prayer service.  May we gather particularly placing the victims of sex abuse in our upper most mind and heart.

Let us be renewed in this time from St Paul’s exhortation in 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21, “That we are to be reconciled to God!”