Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Pentecost is the condition of the birth of the Church"

It is not the hallmark of being a Christian to fear what comes my way by means of reality. Nevertheless, like many people, I often find myself being scared by what happens, both to me personally and in the world in general. Fear easily leads to fear-mongering, which I define as the attempt to whip-up fear in others over the same things that cause me to be afraid. This is why today and every day I must pose the question to myself, "In what, or, more specifically, in whom, do I place my hope?" This is my safeguard against becoming a victim of circumstances. I have to do this while keeping in mind the fact, which can only be learned through experience, that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

Moving to the elephant in the room: How should yesterday's Supreme Court rulings shape the witness of the Church? The best answer I have seen so far is by Dr. Russell Moore, who serves as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. In a post entitled "How Should Same-sex Marriage Change the Church's Witness?," he addresses reality very forthrightly, instead of wallowing in the mire of self-pity and recrimination, by writing, "Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.'" Even if you live in a state that does not grant legal status to same-sex unions, or, as in my state, one that constitutionally defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, you will still have friends, neighbors, co-workers and perhaps even fellow parishioners who are homosexual, or have people who are close to them who are, go to states that grant legal status to committed same-sex relationships and return "married" to live in their native states.

Prior the foregoing remarks Dr. Moore commented on the Church's often inadequate witness:
Following Jesus will mean taking up a cross and following a hard narrow way. It always does.

If we’re going to preach that sort of gospel, we must make it clear that this cross-bearing self-denial isn’t just for homosexually-tempted Christians. It is for all of us, because that’s what the gospel is. If your church has been preaching the American Dream, with eternal life at the end and Jesus as the means you use to get all that, you don’t have a gospel that can reach your gay and lesbian neighbors—or anyone else for that matter
Beyond all of that, I want to get a bit more fundamental and look at the nature of the Church, which is often reduced to an institution with competing existential interests, a player among worldly players. In his address to open the Synod of Bishops last Fall on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict noted, "the Church is the method with which Christ communicates Himself in time and space, analogously to the fact that Christ is the method with which God chose to communicate Himself to men for their salvation." Hence, in my view, any Christian response to circumstances must be firmly rooted in this reality, which means it cannot be a fearful reaction. In the same address, Pope Benedict went on to speak of how belonging to the Church means being just fine with always beginning anew:

we cannot make the Church, we can only announce what he has done. The Church does not begin with our “making”, but with the “making” and “speaking” of God. In the same way, the Apostles did not say, after a few meetings: now we want to make a Church, and that by means of a constituent assembly they were going to draft a constitution. No, they prayed and in prayer they waited, because they knew that only God himself can create his Church, that God is the first agent: if God does not act, our things are only ours and are insufficient; only God can testify that it is he who speaks and has spoken. Pentecost is the condition of the birth of the Church:... God has spoken and this “has spoken” is the perfection of faith but it is also always a present: the perfection of God is not only a past, because it is a true past that always carries in itself the present and the future
In the West we live in what has been described as a post-secular society, which is most certainly an increasingly post-Christian society. The Church has, for better or for worse (in my view there are elements of both), lost its privileged place. In "secular" times the Church and state were separate, but there was enough of a societal consensus on matters, like marriage and sexuality, that the Church spoke with a voice to which most had to pay heed. Further, it seems that when the Church Herself began to be unfaithful to the Truth, which began to occur during the societal revolution that shook the West in the late-1960s, it squandered its credibility, which squandering has led to things like the HHS mandate and now the beginning of the radical re-definition of marriage. In light of this, it seems that perhaps the most important question is, Can I bear witness to the Truth living in a society and culture that is indifferent at best and hostile at worst? Having lived through some of this already as a bishop, I think Pope Francis is well-equipped to show us the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...