Saturday, February 9, 2013

The King's Silly Servants

At the start of the Christian adventure, when the Holy Spirit descends with power upon the disciples, on the day of Pentecost — as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:1-13) — the early Church receives the power to begin the mission entrusted to her by the Risen Lord: to spread the Gospel to every corner of the earth, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and thus to lead every human person to the encounter with Him, to the faith that saves.
The Apostles overcame every fear in proclaiming what they had heard, seen, personally experienced with Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they start to speak in tongues, openly announcing the mystery of which they were witnesses… And so began the journey of the Church, the community that bears this proclamation through time and space, the community that is the People of God founded on the New Covenant thanks to the Blood of Christ. Her members do not belong to a particular social or ethnic group, but are men and women of every nation and culture. It is a “catholic” people, a people who speaks in tongues, universally open to welcoming all, beyond all boundaries, breaking down every barrier. St Paul says: “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11).

General Audience, 31 October 2012

Reflection – The Pope is very much focussing in on the Church as the vessel of faith in this General Audience. From the very beginning until today, the task of inspiring divine faith in man has been given to the Church in its proclamation of the Gospel.

That can seem a bit overwhelming, perhaps, especially as we come to think of the Church not so much as those guys up at the front wearing the funny robes, but as… well, as you. And me (I’m one of those guys at the front, of course). It is our proclamation of the Gospel that will continue this mission of the Church and the raising up of men and women of faith in the next generation.

Overwhelming, yes, and if we thought it was some kind of task we had to perform by our own wonderfulness and strength, we would be fairly hopeless. But, you know, I think back to my own childhood and adolescence here. How did I receive the faith, personally?

My parents (both deceased now) were very ordinary people, and didn’t do such a great job passing on the faith in the home, to be honest. The priests in my parish growing up were not exactly dynamic preachers or men of great personal charisma. Small town Ontario is a pretty sleepy place for the most part. The Catholic schools I went to were in the immediate post-Vatican II meltdown, and consequently taught us nothing.

So how on earth did I receive the faith from the Church, when its local representatives didn’t seem to have much personal genius or ability to teach it? Well, I did have the words of the Gospel proclaimed to me, Sunday after Sunday, and the rest of God’s word. I did have crucifixes and rosaries and pictures and statues of saints all about me. I did have the Eucharist, and regular Confession, and Jesus just kind of around… even if the explanations of just who He was and what He was doing were a bit deficient. And somehow, in all that, faith came to me.

I’m not trying to suggest that the (truly) woefully inadequate religious formation I received was really OK—I do wish everyone involved had done a better job of it. After all, most of my generation walked away from the Church and from the Catholic faith with seemingly little regrets and fuss. That would not have happened quite so much if we had been taught better.

But I guess what I am saying is that the treasure of the faith—the Gospel, the sacraments, the whole of our Catholic rich spiritual heritage—all of this is ours to give, and the power and beauty of it is not dependent entirely on our brilliant presentation of it. We are silly semi-competent servants of the King, and our primary job in life is to usher people into the presence of the King Himself—He can take it from there.
That’s what my own religious formators with all their defects and confusions did for me, and once I was in the presence of Jesus… well, that’s another story for another day. Faith came in, and thirty years later here I am, tripping over my own feet and being just as deficient and silly as anyone as I try not to bumble and fumble too much in the one task I have been given, of bringing people to the King.


  1. Yes, Father Denis. Yes.

    This morning I was reading stuff that Father Ted suggested. (I know, I used to think it sort of schziophrenic- my leaning to both the right and left of religious thought...but as I get older I recognize more and more is because Jesus is present there.. in both sides of the Church. So thank you for saying that so clearly) is what I was reading this morning..
    Fr. Alexander writes:Looking at THE JOURNALS OF FATHER ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN 1973-1983
    “Monday, February 1, 1982

    It suddenly became clear to me that ultimately, deeply, there is a demonic fight in our Church with the Eucharist – and it is not by chance! Without putting the Eucharist at the very center the church is a ‘religious phenomenon,’ but not the Church of Christ, the pillar and bulwark of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The whole history of the Church has been marked by pious attempts to reduce the Eucharist, to make it ‘safe,’ to dilute it in piety, to reduce it to fasting and preparation, to tear it away from the church (ecclesiology), from the world (cosmology, history), from the Kingdom (eschatology). And it became clear to me that if I have a vocation, it is here, in the fight for the Eucharist, against this reduction, against the de-churching of the Church – which happened through clericalization on one hand, and through worldliness on the other..."

    Then it occurred to me that we really need each other- all of us- whatever our beliefs about clerics or laity- or anything church really. We need each other= not so much to get back to clear thinking...but to get back to Jesus. To stay with Jesus.

    Anyway, is looks so sentimental. or pious. or not very true... written out like that. Maybe, because we do not say it to one another often enough. So thank you for that.

    1. It's so true we weren't meant to live out our faith alone in our own bubble and isn't it so amazing that God gave us the community of the Catholic church, precisely because we need each other.


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