Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Church Is a Community in Fellowship

What does the church mean to you? The teaching says the church is the visible sacrament of the invisible God. Since we are not perfect something will always be missing. However, to be the kind of church that God wants, we have to change from a closed and rigid church. The Second Vatican Council showed the need for renewal and emphasized that we are a pilgrim church guided by the Holy Spirit. So begins the article in the Catholic Times by a priest professor at a Catholic University.

Many authorities in the church pick out the following problems we need to face: clericalism, bureaucracy, indifference to peace and justice issues, middle-class image and aging. The apathy of believers is also serious. We have over 80 percent who leave the community of faith and with the young, it is 95 percent. The writer believes this is not due only to poor religious education or laziness but rather in the community they did not find consolation or vitality.

Pope Francis said in the Joy of the Gospel: "I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life) (# 49).

Obstacles to the community are largely due to patriarchal authoritarianism. In this situation, those who have power and those without power will both suffer self-alienation as human beings. Priests, nuns and lay leaders are likely to stick to the safest and easiest ways because of the fear they will be disgraced and lose face if they take the wrong path. However, the pope notes that communities led by fear without love and the spirit of fellowship will not have the joy of the Gospel.

Clerics feel pressure, especially in their sermons. But more important than their words and efforts is the spirit of the community. He remembers a case where a community divided among themselves changed after the new priest, after Sunday Mass shook the hands of all the believers and showed respect to all. 

The newly made Saint Archbishop Oscar Romero of  El Salvador, martyr, proclaimed: "You are all the Church". Today the Pope is respected among non-believers because the Communion of the Spirit which is always leading the Church is always first, more so than church buildings, legal regulations, procedures, theological knowledge, love is always first, and the pope shows this in his actions.

When the leaders of the church, whether priest or layman, are stripped of their old authoritarianism, opened to listening with a humble heart, genuinely wanting to speak heart to heart, the church will move into a true community of fellowship centered on the Holy Spirit. "Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20, 25-26).

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