Being the Church...
The First Reading, reflects the areas of difference and conflict that are bound to arise when Christians come face to face with new problems and new questions for the articulation of their faith. Such conflicts, when properly handled, are necessary, even desirable, if we are to have a deeper understanding of the real meaning of our faith in a changing world.
And God speaks to us through the changing situations in which the world finds itself. Both calm and conflict have something in common. They remind us of the different ways in which God speaks to us. Through his Spirit, which Jesus promises to send after he has left his disciples in the flesh, he will continue to be present, to be with his community, the Church.
Love, as has been said, is not a feeling – it is a verb. There can be no love (feeling) without loving (doing). And anyone can start the process.
For Jesus, love, by which he means loving, is achieved by “keeping his word”. The “word” of Jesus embraces everything we know about him through the Scripture – his words, his actions, his relationships with people of all kinds, the guiding principles of his life, his values and attitudes. The “word” of Jesus also comes to us from all our interactions and experiences within the Christian community where Jesus still speaks to us. It comes to us through the whole of creation of which Jesus is the Head and with which he identifies through his Creator Father.
The Church is much more than an organization founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ. It is, as the Second Vatican Council emphasized, a people. It is a community – at times a rather fractious, disjointed, flawed community – whose members in varying degrees share their faith and hope, their love and caring. A community which, with and in Jesus, is called to work for the transformation of our world of sin and weakness, to make it, in the words of Revelation today, “a city where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple,” the focal point of worship.
It is through this community, that the Spirit continues to speak as it did in the days of the first disciples. That Spirit of the Father and Jesus speaks not only through pope, bishops and priests but can and does speak through each and every one of the members of Christ’s Body – old or young, educated or illiterate, men or woman, friends or enemies.
We see the same tendency in the Church today. People who want to turn the clock back and resurrect old customs and impose them on others. These people tend to make the Church an end in itself. The Church is primarily a vehicle, a means by which the experience of God’s love is extended to the whole world. And, if the Church is to be true to the Spirit, it must remain open to the world for it is the world which, in the words of one theologian, “writes the agenda for the Church”.
It was precisely because they listened to the situation of the new non-Jewish converts, that the Church realized where the Spirit was leading it. When the Church becomes an enclosed, elitist society sitting in unbending judgement on the rest of the world it is no longer the Church that Jesus founded.
Collectively and individually, we need to become aware of the wonderful ways that the Lord can come into our lives. If we give a little time to God each day, if we can remain completely still for even a short while, we can experience an overpowering desire to share in the loving that is reaching out to us from God. And then start reaching out ourselves. God wants to share with us more and more of what he has and is. The problem is that most of us hardly give him a chance. Loving is not only a verb; it is a two-way street.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.