2Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4: 1-6; John 6: 1 -15
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The writer of the letter of the Ephesians – who might have been Paul himself or could have been a later disciple of Paul – exhorts the community to “persevere in the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.” This verse really speaks to me because: 1) the Church must have been the same chaotic mess then as it is now or the writer wouldn’t have had to exhort the community to “persevere” and 2) it reminds me that the peace the letter speaks of is not of human origin or creation but is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
As I write this, here are the top three causes of discord in the Church today:
1) Dueling Ecclesiologies: The words and writings of the vast majority of the bishops state in no uncertain terms that the possibility of truly being a part of the Body of Christ but not in agreement with them on a wide range of issues concerning faith and morals is inconceivable. At the same time, millions of Catholics continue to consider themselves members of the Body of Christ while disgreeing with the bishops on a wide range of issues concerning faith and morals. Their belief that one can disagree with the bishops while still remaining in communion with the Church is as deep as the bishops’ certainty that these same people are not in full communion with the Church.
2) Catastrophic rejection of organized religion by the millennial generation. At least many baby boom Catholics care enough about being a part of the Catholic Church so as to be infuriated when they are told they are really not. the generation following us seems to be viewing it all with befuddled amusement. “Why would anyone want to go through the contortions necessary to be a part of such a disfunctional institution?” seems to be their core question.
3) The inability of the hierarchy or the collective decision of the hierarchy not to recognize the toll taken by the (still on-going) sex abuse crisis. For decades, bishops knew that predator priests could not be cured, would always be a danger to the people, yet continued to enable them to prey on the innocent without ever apparently feeling any guilt or compassion for the victims. To date, no bishop has yet been led away in handcuffs nor is there any indication that the Vatican has done anything to communicate to the bishops that they would be/will be held accountable. I’m told that Cardinal Law is now on a committee that recommends candidates to the Pope when dioceses in the United States are in need of new bishops.
And yet they continue to assert their authority to teach in the name of Jesus. And the faithful are expected to believe them.
So, there’s a thumbnail sketch of the chaos. All of which, or any part of which, would have led me to throw up my hands and skip happily off into the sunset with the Atheists or the Agnostics (I would say the Buddhists but I don’t concentrate well enough) were it not for the truth that peace in the Church is a gift of the Spirit. When we allow her to blow through our hearts and our Church then we experience an abiding peace that the world craves. When we close the door to the Spirit, as in the beginning, the chaos returns.
So, here’s the question for the week: Where in the Church today are you seeing clear manifestations of the peace brought through perseverance in the Spirit? What can we do to encourage those ministers of peace?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)