Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Church: a renewed invitation to a change of heart

Pater Tom once observed that it is much better to just be yourself than to try acting like an angel.

I had to laugh at how much currency Cardinal Onaiyekan's comment about the Church being entrusted to "erring humans" and not "angels" has gained. It shows how our distraction leads to incoherence. On the one hand, we berate the Church, yell and scream about how much the Church needs to change, for many even in its essentials (i.e., those things that really cannot change). On the other hand, we turn the Cardinal Electors into some kind of super-human, super-Christian club (it must be the dazzling eccesial vestments).

One of the signs of Christ's Church is that She remains ecclesia semper reformanda. Cardinal Dolan pointed this out in his wonderful way this week, which he wrote about on his blog:
A journalist... asked if the new Pope would bring radical change to the Church. She seemed surprised when I replied, yes! At least I had her full attention! I then went on to clarify that the Church was “big-time” into change; namely, a change in the human heart, which Jesus called repentance or conversion. The “job description” of the Bishop of Rome is to conserve the faith, the truths of which have been revealed to us by God, especially through His Son, Jesus, faithfully passed on by His Church these past 2000 years, and to renew the invitation of Jesus to a change of heart
It can't be lost on anyone who pays the slightest attention that the Church has been mired in scandal for awhile, what the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus called the Church's "long Lent." These scandals have continued to come to light (i.e., Mahony and O'Brien) right up to threshold of the Conclave. What Cardinal Onaiyekan said was obvious and he stated it as being obvious. Isn't this the reason so many of the faithful are already praying so fervently and will continue do so throughout the Conclave and into the next pontificate? Isn't this the reason behind the success of the website Adopt a Cardinal (I am praying in a special way for Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogotá)?

Van Gogh's The Sower, June 1888

I think what Cardinal Onaiyekan went on to say is more important than the remarks that have drawn so much diversionary attention. According to the Catholic News Service, he went on to assert something about true and false reform, insisting that the Church cannot be worried about being credible "in the sense of its message being believed" and "accepted by everyone." He said, "There are people to whom my message will never be credible, because they will never believe me because they don't believe" in God. He asserted. "You can't be credible to everybody. Authentic, yes, but authentic means a message that is as close as possible to the message of Jesus... The church cannot go around, obviously, all the time trying to be popular, to be acceptable." According to His Eminence, this "doesn't mean that we go out of our way to be difficult to understand... We do our best to explain as much as we can."

Indeed, the Church must continually rise to the task entrusted to Her by Christ, to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [He has] commanded [us]" (Matt. 28:19-20). Onaiyekan concluded, "Even Jesus didn't have it easy explaining to the people of his day what his message was about."

Just last evening I was reading about John Calvin's doctrine of predestination as set forth by T.H.L. Parker:
Calvin's begins at the same practical point as Augustine. Why, when the gospel is preached do some believe and some reject it? The answer that some will to believe and some will to reject cannot be final; it is merely explaining [belief] and unbelief. How can one who has hitherto willed to reject now will to believe? Man is a sinner, that is, a being who wills to reject God. It is clear from the New Testament that faith is the gift of God, that man's will is changed from a rejecting to a believing will by the creative act of the Holy Spirit. So, then, those who believe the gospel do so because their rejecting will is changed into a believing will... To say that men change their own wills [with regard to the actus fidei] would be the grossest Pelagianism
I pray that we never lose sight of the fact that, in the end, the Bride of Christ is spotless, being only comprised of the saints. As Patrick Coffin, the host of Catholic Answers Live, often says on-the-air: "Be a saint. What else is there?" The answer really and truly is, "Nothing, absolutely nothing." This is as true of a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church as it is of the Roman Pontiff, as it is of any lay woman or man, or even of this lowly deacon. Jesus' parables of the sower and the wheat and the tares, both of which are found in the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, serve to point this out. Each day of the Conclave the Cardinal electors will gather in the Sistine Chapel. It is not accidental that on the altar wall of the Sistine is Michelangelo's fresco The Last Judgment.

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