The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think
40 “Whoever welcomes
The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches
Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37
The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.
Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.
It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.
It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.
This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.
To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.
In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.
To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….
Words like, “The Lord is with You”
Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Who is Responsible for this Work?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
“Responsibility is something to be avoided. Evade it at all costs!”
It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church. Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag. But in regards to the work of the church as well.
And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!
We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved. Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility. Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer. Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.
So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…
How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.
That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.
A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well. To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!
So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!
Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.
And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Is Worship Boring?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
20 Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine – to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen! Ephesians 3:14-20 (Phillips NT)
77 You told me that to tie yourself to a plan of life, to a schedule, would be so monotonous! And I answered, “It is monotonous because you lack love.”
It is sometimes. Ver much so more than I would like to admit.
It doesn’t matter if it is a high powered contemporary service, or a organ blasting traditional service, or a small intimate worship time on a retreat.
Church services can be boring, even monotonous,
And while the pastor and those who music facilitates our praises can impede or encourage worship, there is one key that absolutely makes the difference in whether you find a church and the worship service.
I’ve seen couples where one is completely engaged in worship, one is actively engaged, and talks about church as the high point of their week. The spouse, however, was so disengaged that they eventually fell asleep.
What makes the difference in perception is the person.
St Josemaria says it well, it is monotonous because of the truth of this, you lack love.
And if you lack love, there are two options, you are unable to love God and others, or what is necessary to love him, you haven’t been immersed in the reality of HIs love for you. You haven’t had the opportunity, as St Paul desired for you, to explore the incredible dimensions of that love for you.
Not just know the love as a piece of data, because you can’t fully, it is so far beyond our comprehension, You need to be filled with that love, you need to be filled with God.
And that is the purpose of a church service, to help you explore that depth, and those who lead are simply guides on the journey. Guides who hopefully are still in awe of the same journey, pointing out this treasured point, and that, how this explores the heights, and that explores the depths.
For if you know how incredible God’s love is for you,
And when you do, the hunger to more will help you engage, to enter the service as a participant as we dance with God, rather than being an observer. For everyone has a part in worship, every voice has its role, a part in the service. It’s not just about the guys up there in robes, We are just there to point you to the love that God has for you, the incredible love that makes a difference in every aspect of your life.
So when you come into a church, expect something special, expect to hear you are loved, listen for it, rejoice in it, walk in it, even dance in it, and then love and adore the God who loves you.
The same service will never be the same.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 339-340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Wait for it…..can you?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3 Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4 And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ ” Habakkuk 2:2-4 (TEV)
Impatience carries within itself a punishment: sterility.
The impatient, by wanting it all at once, is left with nothing. Their projects are like the seed that fell on rocky soil: they lack depth; they are mere words without consistency.
I remember the movie theatre in my hometown would change movings on Saturday, in time for the matinee. Then it began that they would open on a new movie on Friday night, and now often, there is a midnight screening that you can go to, usually packed, so that you can be among the first to see the new movie.
We aren’t a very patient society at all, when we are willing to give up our health in order to say, “I was there” for a movie picture. (Heck – now they will bring the popcorn barrel and half a gallon of caffeine to your seat so you won’t fall asleep in the powered recliner.
Is it any wonder that we are not patient in the church? That we are so wanting the church to be what we envision the church to be that when there aren’t instant results we give up? When this program or that staff member doesn’t accomplish the goals we set (did we even ask God what His vision for our congregation is?), we simply get rid of the program, find another place, a better fit for the staff member, rather than finding the patience we need.
But that impatience leads to fruitlessness, it leads to a weak church that doesn’t take time to see God at work, the kind of work that is sound, that is based in spiritual growth, that depends on learning to live in the presence of God. That learns that true growth happens as we are left in awe of His love, as we adore Him, as we realize the change He is making in us, and the difference that change is from where we were.
Patience and its corollary, steadfast-faithfulness, doesn’t mean futility or stagnation. It doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather dwelling in Christ. Not just going through the motions for religious reasons, but treasuring what we’ve been given for the way it reveals Jesus with us, and helps us experience the serenity that the Spirit brings us. It means rejoicing as we realize what we’ve been given, what has been handed down to us.
This isn’t always easy, especially for one like me that thrives on change. (the only stable thing in my life is the presence of change, I get nervous without it) Patience is not on my virtues, but neither is it for many of us. Which is a good thing, as it drives us back to Christ, it reminds us that only in Him do we have hope, the promise that all will work out for good for those who love God.
God is with you, be at peace, and wait for it!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Why I Need the Church! ( a pastor’s confession)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24 Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 26 If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice 27 and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! Hebrews 10:22-26 (MSG)
940 “Where charity and love are found, there is God” we sing in the liturgical hymn. Here is what a certain soul noted down: “Fraternal love is a great and marvellous treasure. It is not simply a consolation—which it certainly often has to be—but it really brings home the certainty of having God close to us, and shows itself in the charity our neighbours have for us and in the charity which we have for them.”
Yesterday, our church was blessed to have a great pastor come and preach, just months before he retires from a prominent role in the church. I really wanted my people to hear him preach, to hear him talk of God’s love. But I also wanted him to hear them respond to him, to minister to him, as they have for nearly 10 years, to me.
You see, I need them, I need the church,
Not to pay my salary as a pastor, (though that gives me the freedom to teach and care more) I need them to encourage me, to lift me up, to help me survive in this crazy broken world. I need them to remind me that my sins are forgiven. I need to hear them fire back with great confidence “And also with you” which is what I wanted my district president to hear.
He’s going to need it as life dramatically changes. Just as we need to hear it now.
St. Josemaria has it right, this bond between brothers and sisters in Christ is not just a consolation, it is far more than just the comfort we bring, it brings home the certainty that God is with us. The love, the charity, the mercy we find ourselves dwelling in, sharing with each other, is beyond our own ability. It is because of the love of God. It is His work, it is His love that empowers and enables us to love each other.
The challenge is that we get so distracted by life or by work, even by the business of church that we forget to look around, to pray for that person, to give that one a good solid hug, to look in that person’s eyes and make sure they hear us when we say, “The peace of God is with you!”
I need to be a part of the church because I need to know God’s presence, that He is at work, to be reminded of this when sorrow hits, to be encouraged to re-focus when I am distracted to be encouraged. I also need to be able to make that difference in other people’s life. I know that I am not the only one that needs the church, that needs to know God is present, not just as a doctrinal statement of omnipresence, but as a reality seen in a life in the community, in a life with others God has gathered together.
I need the Church, simply because through the Church we find revealed to us the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us. I find the comfort that God offers when I cry to Him, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”.
I pray you find that need in your life answered as well.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3321-3325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Did Jesus Come For You?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. 16 When the scribes m of the Pharisees saw that He was eating p with sinners q and tax collectors, r they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat s with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17
In revising the Roman office, its ancient and venerable treasures are to be so adapted that all those to whom they are handed on may more extensively and easily draw profit from them.
It is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, those who think Jesus wouldn’t associate with them are the very ones He came to unite to himself. And those, who think they are spiritually adept often miss out on the blessing.
I dare say that our liturgies have for too long aided and abetted this problem. The look and sound more like the pious Pharisee than the broken tax-collector. The content of our services, from the mass to vespers and then compline need to be in the language that is profitable, that is beneficial for those broken by the weight of sin. It needs to resonate with their soul and reveal to them the love and mercy of God, their God, who would have them dwell in peace.
I think those at Vatican II and those who influenced the council’s deliberations were starting to see this. That the liturgy was for all the people of God, not just those who knew the right actions, the right words, and could repeat them without knowing the power of their meaning. ( I wish my own small part of Christianity would follow suit, but I fear it is heading away from such thoughts)
We desperately need to be formed by the word of God in our prayers, in our liturgy. And by we, I don’t mean those on the membership roster of our church and the churches we trust. It means all the people of God, those He died for, those He is drawing to himself, those who may fight now, only to be baptized tomorrow. The people of God include all who don’t believe God’s mercy is available to them, for in their humility, they will receive it. Those who think they are good enough already, why would they bother? The liturgy can cause us to really cry out for His mercy, and express praise and wonder at God’s love seen as Jesus was slaughtered like a lamb, that we might live.
If the word is to form us, we have to be able to understand it, simply and without a dictionary, lexicon, and thesaurus by our side. This message is to needed, to precious, to amazing to conceal it with elaborate words, and movements that have no meaning because they are not know, not explained, not heard.
We all, from the youngest to the oldest, from every continent and country, from every economic group, language group, everyone, needs to know that Jesus came for us all. It is really a simple concept, one spoken originally in simple Hebrew, Aramaic, and common Greek. We can and show do the same today so that the people God draws to us will know Him, as the Spirit reveals Him to them through our words, our music, our liturgy.
As we finalize our words for the Christmas celebration, may we do so, and may all those the Spirit draws near profit from them. AMEN!
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Who Me? Thoughts on the Image of Christ…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. z “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar c or not?”
18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a •denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.
21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22 HCSB
298 My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope.
I vaguely remember the first time realizing the inference in the gospel reading in red above. That while money bears the image of Emperor’s and Presidents, we bear in ourselves the image of God. Intellectually, it was pretty cool insight for a kid, and I remember being pleased with the simple idea.
We are made in the image of God!
What a wondrous thought, that every person we meet was created by God Even though we have too often obscured His image as we’ve fallen to temptation, the image remains. Bruised and battered, torn, dented, covered in the slime and muck that is the result of sin. And one of the joys of being a Christian is when we see someone realize this, as God cleanses and recreates them, restoring the image. What a joy it is, to see God begin to transform them! (see 2 Cor. 3)
Yet there are times, even as I observe that the observation seems to be from a distance. I get the idea of being made in the image of God, yet as I look in the mirror, I see something far different. I see the darkness and brokenness still, I see the damage of my sin. To borrow from St Josemaria’s words this morning, I see far too clearly the wretchedness of my poor soul.
This is where God’s love is so glorious, so wonderful, so nearly beyond belief. St Josemaria describes it so well, as he is sure of God giving us the supernatural beauty, knowledge, and power we need so that Jesus is not sullied, not shocked by looking upon our brokenness.
Realizing this, we find another reason to adore Him, for we find another facet, another depth of His love for us! He will let us love Him! He doesn’t just accept the love we show Him, He will treasure the love we are able to show Him!
He is our God, and He makes us His people, and rejoices in our love! Even as He transforms it, and creates in us the ability to love.
Enjoy His love, my friends!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1219). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A simple goal for today…
Devotional Thought for our seemingly shattered days:
. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)
237 Never lose heart, for Our Lord is always ready to give you the necessary grace for the new conversion you need, for that ascent in the supernatural field.
We approach that time of year, that is either full of excitement (and perhaps greed and envy) or is full of despair and grief.
Either way, these holidays can break our hearts, as what should be a time of grace, where love and peace are so clearly shown, are instead a place where we lose heart.
It is so easy to do, to allow what is going on to crush our hearts. As some of it should….for grief is a very valid, very painful emotion.
Even as we grieve, either for the loss of a good friend, or the state of the world, we need to have a goal that gives us hope, a goal that would be the light of the tunnel, that would leave us in the experience of peace.
The apostle Paul describes it as the renewal, as the Holy Spirit transforms our thoughts and attitudes, to find the righteousness and holiness that comes only through God’s work, as He draws us into His presence.
St Josemaria describes it as a conversion of the heart. As someone with a genetic heart challenge, this concept has slightly different meaning. Whether it is a seemingly simple problem like A-fib, or something more deadly like V-Tac, conversion is a process where the heart rhythm is shocked from its irregularity, from its broken pattern, into a normal and healthy pattern.
In the medical field, this is often done with a defibrillator, as the body is given a powerful electrical shock which overrides the heart rhythm, which will cause it to start again, normal and strong.
The word of God and the Sacraments do this spiritually, as our encounter with God overwhelms our broken rhythm of life. They overwhelm the rhythm, they stop us in the midst of our out of balance life and remind us of God’s presence, His love, His mercy, That He is here, and if our life is in rhythm with Him, we become more and more aware of His presence.
Living life in rhythm with God won’t stop the tears, living life in rhythm with God won’t immediately fix all wrong in our lives and in the world, But it will awaken us to see the work God is doing, that we are set apart to Him, that we are forgiven, that He is healing our brokenness. Living out of rhythm with God blinds us to this grace. blinds us as well to His comforting presence, which so many of us need right now. But as
So I pray for you, whatever it is that has you out of rhythm, whether it is you own sin, or the weight of the sin of the world, whatever the brokenness, whatever the grief, that God would”convert: you, giving you the gift of transforming the rhythm of your life, and simultaneously, draw you into the glorious peace that occurs when we know we are in His presence. (and please pray the same for me)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1006-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
This Child Asks, “God, what can I do to please you?”
Devotional Thought for our days:
4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:4 (Phillips NT)
195 Just now, Jesus, when I was considering my wretchedness, I said to you: Allow yourself to be taken in by this son of yours, just like those good fathers, full of kindness, who put into the hands of their little children the presents they want to receive from them… knowing perfectly well that little children have nothing of their own. And what merriment of father and son, even though they are both in on the secret!
St. Josemaria’s words give a definition to my greatest fear in life. That because of my wretchedness, because of who I perceive myself to be, I will never, ever do anything for God that pleases Him.
It just won’t happen, despite a desire to do it, despite an attempt to dedicate my life to serve Him, and led people to Him. There are days when it seems to happen, but those days are far apart, and seem more like an accident than anything I really do.
The challenge is in getting my mind off of my wretchedness, and see what God is doing around me. It’s not easy to do at times, as my own failures and wretchedness dominate my landscape. The sins that seem so obvious, and even the things I strive to do like my sermons, seem to fall so short, so often failing to show people what they need to know, the presence of God in their lives.
But it is that very presence I need to see, as God works through us, His hand masterfully, artfully guiding us, doing the work He planned for us to accomplish.
It is only by seeing His presence, by resting safely in His arms, that I can see this. It is only by relenting, and meditating on His love, that this assurance, this peace, can comfort a soul that is not as wretched as it thinks.
I know God does work through me, like the Father who helps the child create the gift to be given back to the Father. Or the Father who makes the gift the son brings truly become something special. What I need to do is let this amazing, wonderful truth sink deeply into my heart and soul, creating a joy that is described as unspeakable by the Apostle Peter.
I would imagine that I am not the only one….. so let us pray for each other!
Lord, Have mercy on us, and give us the ability to know this joy, to know that the Spirit works through us, doing what is pleasing to the Father! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 876-880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Just Me and God? Hmmmm….
Devotional Thought for our days….
After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9-10 NCV
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)
The goal of the early Augustine, “God and the soul—nothing else”, is not realizable; it is also not Christian. In the last analysis, religion consists, not in the solitary way of the mystic, but in the community of proclaiming and hearing. Our conversation with God and our conversation with one another require and condition one another.
Every once in a while someone will tell me they don’t go to church because they don’t need it. They can worship God in a park, at the beach, in the mountains, by a lake. I almost believe them. After all, they will claim, didn’t Jesus often go away from the disciples to pray?
No, I do believe them. Some of the most intense moments, where I have realized the grace of God, have been those solitary moments when I am still, when I must know that He is God, that He is with me. And it is usually dealing with people that drives me to seek such solitude!
And of course, I am not alone in this. Augustine’s thoughts about this, referenced by Pope Benedict, show a similar desire. Just me and God, just God and my soul, nothing else needed! Benedict XVI sounds similar, if less harsh, to the critiques of Luther in regards to monasticism. Our relationship with God and with each other is the same relationship, it is the same package. Both Paul and Peter describe this in scripture as we are one body, many different parts perhaps, but we are one, and Jesus is our head. The creeds talk about one Church, noted because it is holy ( dedicated and separated to God ) Catholic (universal, across all 4 dimensions), apostolic ( it has a mission, it is sent by God) church ( those drawn together in Christ)
This is the way it was the early church, so in awe of the resurrection of Christ and what it means for us, they couldn’t help but meet together often, to talk about it, to show the love they had for each other. It wasn’t programmed, it wasn’t the result of marketing, it was the joy of being in Christ. Were there problems? Sure, but they worked themselves out as people realized they were reconciled to God.
Ultimately, in heaven, in the presence of God, face to face with Him, we are standing shoulder to shoulder, we are singing loudly together. It is not you, walking in the garden alone with God, We are all His! He walks with all of us, He talked with all of us, and He tells us all, we are His own. That is the way it is.
What does this mean for the church today?
That’s a big question. In a world with tens of thousands of different bodies, each claiming to be the church, yet each a broken fractured part of the one Church. But we can’t ignore the rest! Just as an individual can’t separate themselves from the church, neither should a congregation or even a denomination. There still needs to be a desire, a strong sense of this division is wrong and prayer that God would lead us to wholeness, real wholeness. Found in reconciliation in Christ, not in man made compromise. Still- that we would be one, even as Jesus and the Father are One.
May this be part of what we cry out for, when we cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!” 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.