Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them.
For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret;
but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible ...
As I proclaimed these words at Mass yesterday, I did not know how loudly they were going to echo in my ears later that day. At the time, I thought this passage was a beautiful reference to the sacrament of reconciliation, where shameful secrets are brought to light in order to bring healing and peace. When the Apostle Paul says to "expose" the works of darkness, he did not mean that we should run around gossiping about the people who do these and "fruitless" works of darkness. Indeed, he says to mention them is "shameful."
Rather, he instructs us, we are to "bring it to the light." Not the harsh glare of a disapproving mob, but the healing rays of God's forgiveness and cleansing. This we find in a special way within the sacrament of reconciliation.
But as I said, the words had an echo effect. Last night, one of our children told me of a friend who is being abused. There is no question of the necessity of response; the question is, "How?" Protecting our children, and maintaining their trust, is paramount. After that, the water gets murky very quickly.
As foster parents, we have seen children thrust into truly desperate circumstances, and forced to hold knowledge that was far too heavy even for an adult to carry. Our job was to help them hand over those burdens to us, so they can move on and reclaim part of their childhood. This "handing over" is not easy -- depending on the level of trust established, the whole thing can be traumatic. But it is necessary if the children are going to heal.
Jesus carried the sins of the world on His shoulders all the way to the cross, and calls us to imitate Him by taking up and carrying for them the burdens that weigh upon our children. We must listen without horror or misplaced sentimentality. We must affirm their courage for telling. We hold them -- and pray like crazy -- as they cry. We gently reminding them that they can trust us, and that nothing they could ever say or do would cause us to love them less, and (most of all) that we believe them.
Please pray for us.