Here in Aberdeen, we have a little place called “The Roncalli Nearly New.” It is a small shop on north Main Street where people drop off their stuff and some nice people in the back sort it and price it and put it out for sale.
They work so hard and all the profits go to support our Catholic school system; their hard work is quite profitable indeed.
There are two unique ways in which this important little shop impacts my life.
First, as pastor of one of the parishes in Aberdeen, I deeply appreciate the financial support the Nearly New store gives to our schools. Each year we are blessed with $140,000 that helps us continue this amazing ministry of our parishes to form the whole person.
In addition, we are blessed to have a place where those who are poor or in need can come and find clothing and home supplies.
Second, as the son of one of the nice people who works in the back, I have a mom who always has her eyes open for clothes that fit her grown children, shoes and shirts and sweatpants and little knick-knacks she thinks they will enjoy.
Every so often I will stop by the house and mom will run into the back room and bring out some treasures for me to look at or try on. If I decide I like them she pays for them, and if not, back to the store they go. It is a great system.
One day when I was visiting from Pierre, she came out from the back room with some clothes and a free-standing crucifix that once adorned a high altar. My mom said it came with some things from Presentation College and she was wondering if I wanted it. I did want it, tarnished and beat up as it was.
It sat in the rectory in Pierre for quite a long time until one day I decided to finally clean it up. It took a few hours of cleaning and scrubbing to get the tarnish off without causing it too much damage. I used many rags and an old tooth brush, some cleaning fluid and elbow grease, not to mention patience.
Tarnish free, I worked on polishing it and finally buffing it. By the end, it looked amazing, shiny and new, and it was a beautiful addition to my confessional. It took some effort, but my, it was worth it.
The other day I was giving the crucifix a little touch up to keep it shiny and beautiful, cleaning it with a bit more elbow grease and remembering the day I sat down, the kitchen table covered in newspaper, and labored to make the tarnished new and lovely again.
It is not an easy job, and yet it is an important one; just below the tarnish and dirt was the shining Body of Christ, ready to be seen in splendor once again.
It is an act of faith, of course, and ultimately an act of hope. Not simply for an image of the Body of Christ on a tarnished crucifix, but for the true Body of Christ that is the Church. It is a time of struggle to be sure, of great pain and doubt, yet we also have the opportunity to make an act of hope in working to bring forth the glory of the Body of Christ again.
We in the hierarchy are called in a special way to walk a journey of humility, embracing again our role as servant leaders and not clerical kings, but all of us are called to this work. Certainly, not all have sinned by bringing this shame to the Church, but all of us suffer because of this shame. Certainly, not all need to seek repentance, but all of us are needed to make the journey of renewal.
All who are baptized are called to this journey. We may not have caused the pain, but we feel it; we may not have wounded the Church, but as Church, healing is a mission for us all. It is for us all to do the difficult work of reclaiming the dignity of our baptism, to stand up and be the People of God which is the Church’s definition of herself.
As each of us embrace this mission, embracing all human beings in love, praying and fasting for the Church, and as each of us remembers that, filled with the Holy Spirit, we bring Christ into the world, then, with faith and hope, and a bit of elbow grease, we reveal again the shining Body of Christ that is always there.
Tarnish can be removed, it just takes time, patience, hope and work.