Friday, February 8, 2013

It's Almost Like He Means It

On Sunday, in the Holy Mass, reciting the “Creed”, we speak in the first person, but we confess as one the one faith of the Church. That “I believe” said individually joins a vast chorus across time and space, in which each person contributes, so to speak, to the harmonious polyphony in faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums this up in a clear way: thus, “believing” is an act of the Church. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the Mother of all believers. “‘No one can have God as his Father, who does not have the Church as his Mother’ (St Cyprian)” (n. 181). Therefore, the faith is born in the Church, leads to her and lives in her. This is important to remember.

General Audience, 31 October 2012

Reflection – I have mentioned before on this blog my encounter with a young theology student who told me she wasn’t interested in studying ecclesiology because ‘she wasn’t married to the Church.’ My reaction to her was, alas, gaping horrified silence (I was a second year seminarian then, and not quite as quick on the draw), although afterwards in a fit of l’esprit d’escalier (that’s French for thinking of something clever to say five minutes after the conversation ends), I said to the empty air, ‘Well, that’s too bad, since Jesus is.”

But of course it’s not for us to be married to the Church, precisely. The Church is, as the Pope says, and as we have always said, our Mother. There is this body, this group of believers spread across time and space, this countless throng of mostly ordinary men and women, a few of them saints, but most of them struggling sinners like you and I… and the faith we profess comes to us through them. It also comes to us as a direct action of God our Father, but in the womb, if you will, of the Church our Mother.

This is so crucial. For so many people today, ‘The  Church’ has a bad name. Even many Catholics find it a fairly anguished term, like that young woman who distanced herself from it. Either the horrible sexual scandals that have beset us all have become the primary association with ‘Church’, or failures (real or perceived) of ecclesiastical leadership to teach the faith and promote justice and charity, or teachings that simply seem wrong to some, or the appalling unkindnesses and inhospitality and harshness that can occur at the Church on the most local and immediate levels.

So many people leave the Church simply because ‘Fr. X. was mean to my mother.’ It’s easy to dismiss this (‘oh, for crying out loud – there’s more to the Church then Fr. X. at St. Blatherings Parish!’). But for many people, there really isn’t, and harsh or rude treatment really does that kind of major damage.

So it is important—beyond important, it is crucial—for those of us who can expand our vision of the Church to do so. To see this motherly reality, this profound dynamic where God the Father begets us as his sons and daughters in the womb of our Mother the Church. Because it didn’t have to be this way, you know. God could have just done it on a person-by-person basis without reference to a Church, you know. He chose, in his sovereign will, to have all these graces of divine life, sonship, deep communion with the Trinity all come to us through and in the life of the Church.

You know, it’s almost as if He’s really serious about this ‘love one another’ business. It’s almost as if it is really matters to Him that we fashion a human family, a real community of persons among ourselves. It’s almost as if He really means it that it is not good for man to be alone, and He really does intend us to be with each other, not just in superficial commercial or social interactions, but in depth and in love.
And all this happens in all our brokenness—sex scandals and lousy leadership, mean pastors and cold parishioners, teachings we don’t understand or agree with and people we would rather not say hello to, let alone embrace as brothers and sisters. All of this is ‘the Church’, along with all the beauty and goodness that we can see if our eyes are not too jaundiced or blinded by our judgments. Our Mother—a bit shabby in her dress at times, a bit odd in her behaviour at other times, but nonetheless, where faith is born in us, and where the faith has been borne from generation to generation for 2000 years now.

1 comment:

  1. I have understood that the church is at one time both mother and bride and us ourselves as being body (with Christ as the head0. There is an implied disconnect from our true "self" if we disconnect ourselves from the church, almost a self hatred. I remember when I had to go through a stage of accepting the Church all over again. It was a real growth experience, but I came to understand the church is me and all the other me-s as well.


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