Think of how Paul describes this Church and why people should be in it: because of the community and good feelings and the opportunity to help others? No - because this is the way the world is - God has redeemed the world through Christ, and to be joined to this Body is to be joined to Christ, to be renewed, eternally. There is all kinds of fruit from that - sacrificial love for one another, for the poor. Radical life changes that set us apart from the world and the flesh. Unity, love...joy.[Italics in original. Bold added] This also reminds me of her little book, well written and quite helpful, that expands on some of these ideas: Here, Now: A Catholic guide to the good life.]
But the point is completely the reverse of the assumptions in this letter and 95% of what we hear about the importance of Church - what we hear is that - this a nice place, and you'll find meaning in a troubled world here.
Is that the Apostolic vision of Church? No - it is, rather - here is the world. This is what happened - it broke. You are part of that brokenness. Here is Jesus, the Son of God, died and risen to life. He has entered the world and mysteriously redeemed it, the fulness of which is not yet visible to our eyes. Jesus lives in this Church, and to be a part of God's plan for this world, to enter into it - this is where you must be, too. You will be baptized, and you will die and rise with Christ, be a new person, a new creation. You will be part of the Body of Christ, you will let Christ live in you, and you will be filled with joy and you will probably suffer
This functional-utilitarian-self-fulfillment way of doing Church has failed because it is not true. It is a mixed-up confused consequence of the perceived need to make faith more understandable to the modern person, and the slow acceptance of the total privatization of personal faith - that it is all about my personal spritiuality and no longer about the story of the world. It has resulted in a mode of doing and speaking that is profoundly misleading, leaving many Catholics adrift in the culture, not quite sure why they should go to church on Sunday apart from habit, guilt and the vague hope that they might be "inspired" a bit and their kids might absorb some moral constraints here and there. It is not their fault. When this is what they are taught, this is the fruit.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Putting the world to rights ...
The phrase in the title is N.T. Wright's, one that he uses repeatedly in his fantastic apologetic book, "Simply Christian" (I've no idea if he wanted to imitate "Mere Christianity or not. That it is not, but it's good!). I was reminded of Wright's words as I read what Amy wrote (and she does so well, especially when she gets going!) in response to a pastoral letter issued by the Bishop of Orange County, NJ.