Where is the Church?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. 17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Romans 12:9-18 (TEV)
Christian experience begins in the everyday world of communal experience. Today, the interior space in which Church is experienced is, for many, a foreign world. Nevertheless, this world continues to be a possibility, and it will be the task of religious education to open doors on the experiential space Church and to encourage people to take an interest in this kind of experience. When people share the same faith, when they pray, celebrate, rejoice, suffer, and live together, Church becomes “community” and thus a real living space that enables humanity to experience faith as a life-bringing force in daily life and in the crises of existence.
As a young believer, I watched the church betray and hurt people I loved. I’ve seen it again recently, to more than one person.
It puts the words from Pope Benedict above in a different context, as he speaks of those for whom the experience of being the church is a foreign world. We aren’t talking about those who are completely blinded to the gospel, we are talking about those who have had to seek refuge from the Church.
Why would the place described as the place where we “experience faith as a life bringing force in daily life and the crises of existence” be the place where such faith is snuffed?
Have we forgotten that the church is a body, that we are to have the same concern for everyone, weeping and laughing with them, That we are to try and live in peace with everyone? This is why we talk of church as a community, a communion, a fellowship. Everyone is important, no one is to be silenced because they are drowned out by the crowd.
But how do we create this environment in the church? How do train leaders to develop such a spirit, especially in a culture which promotes narcissism? How do we do this in a culture which says we have to take care of things at home?
Pope benedict talks of the mission of religious education being to help people experience this – but how can they, if the church is more often seen as a cold and heartless place?
My answer may seem to simply, but it is the only one I’ve seen work. That answer is to work on developing hearts full of devotion. This kind of church is not something naively discussed, but it occurs as God’s presence is revealed, and people adore Him, because of what His presence brings about, the lives of joy that His presence creates, strengthens, and sustain.
We find what people what we need, in the communion of saints, the communion that is fashioned by Jesus, and gathers and laughs and cries, as He laughs and cries with us… all as one.
This is where the church is, where it is experienced, where it goes and finds refuge from the world, and then brings others to experience that refuge. AMEN
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.