Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crisis Within The Church, Violence Our Self Portrait

In the present community of faith, we see two extreme ways the church is seen. They both see a crisis and are concerned. A priest writer in a Bulletin for priests begins his article with these words.

A so-called conservative school sees the situation with a martyr's attitude: they face a stark reality and proceed to analyze  the situation. After the Second Vatican Council, the church was contaminated with disbelief, worldliness, and liberalism. It's their task to return to the time before the Council as a loyal remnant in the church.

The other school predicts that if we continue in our present ways the church will decline and cease to exist. What is necessary is for the true Christian to throw off the aging and frustrating system the Church is trapped in and modernize, become efficient and get the applause of society.

In these two extremes, there is a common element in that both of them see the other as the cause of the problems the church faces. The two camps with their strong fortress mentality both predicting the downfall of the church have in their logic no place for love but only condemnation, no concern for the other but judgment. Within these two camps, we have a narrowness of thinking, self-inflicted pain and attitudes that give birth to despair and the soil for violence.

This attitude does recognize that the church is made up of human beings and is limited in what it's able to do. Both these camps are violent in their activities towards the good people who believe that the Church from the time of the Apostles is being led by God and his Spirit.

Sarcasm is adrift in the Church and our self-portrait. This attitude hurts us and defeats without finding hope in our Lord. Medard Kehl SJ, a German theologian, has thought deeply about the challenges that face the church in the modern world and fights against them in his book: Where is the Church Going?  He asks those with closed minds and self-inflicted pessimism with the following proposal. " To grow in hope is not to strive only for results by all means and give people all that they desire. What we are about is  to be faithful in living our faith without vacillation of any kind."  In other words: faith for a Christian is doing what we are asked as natural and wholeheartedly, without looking around to others and wanting to hear applause. This will make us free and relieve us of many burdens. We are not always looking for immediate results from our efforts but at the same don't surrender. Efficiency is not our most important value.

In a changing world, negative conclusions about the situation faced by the church or obsession with survival follow from a lack of faith and deep reflection on the meaning of church. With the deep reflection, we begin to understand our being internally, externally and the truth. We come to a deeper understanding of the reality we are experiencing and a deeper level of hope.

In Korea, the candlelight processions did bring about visibly the desire of many of the citizens for a new start. At this point in history with all the conflict within and outside the community of faith, we need to reflect more deeply on the reason for the existence of the Church, the world, humanity and the light will come.

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