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)
Christ exists only in his body, not just as an ideal; that means: with all those others—with the permanent, time-transcending community that is his body. The Church is not an idea, but a body, and the scandal of the Incarnation, on which many of Jesus’ contemporaries came to grief, continues in the vexations of the Church, but here, too, the saying is applicable: Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me. This communal character of the Church necessarily means, then, her we character: she is not just somewhere; we ourselves are the Church. Certainly, no one can say: “I am the Church”; each must and may say: We are the Church. And “we”—that is not just a group that isolates itself, but one that belongs to the whole community of all the living and deceased members of Christ. Thus a group can really say: We are the Church. The Church is here in this accessible we that removes boundaries—not just social and political boundaries, but also the boundary between heaven and earth. We are the Church—from this proceeds our co-responsibility, but also the privilege of being co-workers; from this comes our right to criticize, but we must always begin with self-criticism. For Church—we repeat—is not just somewhere, someone else; it is we who are the Church.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Church appears and truly is dysfunctional.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a Bible study of 6, or a congregation of 60 or 1000, or the Church as the entire Body of Christ, throughout the world, and throughout time. We are dysfunctional; we are broken, we argue and fight, we try to one-up each other. We allow politics to divide us, then complain about the division.
Sociologists have fun studying us.
And yet we need, desperately need to be part of such a dysfunctional family. As much as we need each other, as much as we need to realize the “we” of the church, we struggle with it.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this, trying to help us realize that we need to remove the boundaries. No easy task there. But it is needed. We need to picture the Church as the Church. We need to picture ourselves as more “we” at every level. We need to be able to weep and laugh with others who are part of this magnificent, beautiful, incredible, dysfunctional family. No, not just a family, a body. We aren’t an organization, we, the church are an organism.
St. Paul gives a great description of what the church should look like in the passage quoted above… the loving sincerely, full of respect, devotion, hope, and joy. What an incredible idea, to live like this.
Some will reply, how can we do that? Others more theologically trained will determine this description is law, and they will use that determination as an excuse not to live this way, ignoring how the chapter started, because of God’s great mercy…..
I think Pope Benedict hits on the key, how this dysfunctional group of spiritually immature people become the “we” of the church when he talks about removing not just boundaries here on earth, but the boundary between heaven and earth. As that boundary is removed, as we realize we dwell in the presence of God, as we are in awe of His love, we are transformed, and those things Paul talks about, those things beome who we are. The more our attention and focus is drawn to God and His glory, the more His presence is revealed and overwhelms us.. The greater this unity is realized as well.
This is the mystery that Paul refers to in Col. 1:27-28, the idea that Christ dwells in us! (The “you” there in Greek is plural), It is the blessing of the description of the Body in 1 Cor. 10-13, it is the picture of the redeemed, resurrected united people of God in Ezekiel 36-37.
It is the truth of this, “we” are the church, the people God called out to make His own. And He has.
WHich is why the people of God know peace that is beyond explanation, for we dwell, our hearts and minds safe and secure in Christ. 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.