-Hear Last Sunday's homily at this link: August 31 Homily
-This Sunday's Scriptures can be found at Sunday's Scriptures
-I will be celebrating mass this weekend at 5:30 on Saturday and 8:00, 11:00, and 6:00pm Sunday(visit St. Albert Website)
Church -it's Simple, not Easy!
That's right, Church, "ekklesia" as it is called in Matthew's Gospel (the convocation, literally) is a pretty simple-sounding reality in life. However, rather than simple I know "church" is anything but easy. The reason we can acknowledge that about "church" is because church is a gift from God of "relationship". And relationships are about love. And love ain't easy.
Church is the most basic and ancient of relationships. It is modeled upon the "relationship at the heart of all reality" - the Blessed Trinity. So church is about our capacity to love one another.
A long time ago I had a well-intentioned "Catholic-living-as-a-fundamentalist" sit in my office and describe for me why she didn't want to worship with me, as she said, "You are all about religion, Father, while I am all about relationship with Jesus." While that was a pretty insulting tactical barb she learned from her mega-church pastor, it very clearly revealed two things:
1. the lack of understanding of Jesus being preached by the non-denominationalists
2. the ineffective messaging of the Catholic Church in the world today (even to our own members).
I must admit that when most Catholics hear the word Church (the English word for ekklesia ) they think of organization, hierarchy, the Pope, the Vatican, a rather cold and ancient INSTITUTION. That's a far cry from what the biblical word means (literally, "those called out") or what the church teaches and celebrates from the catechism to the Holy Mass.
The church is first and foremost the "loving relationship among believers in the Holy Spirit". That is what I have been preaching about this summer and calling, "communion". Church is the human, incarnate version of the life of the Holy Trinity. Communion. Church as communion is what we celebrate at every Mass - communion with God and neighbor. No Catholic can claim to understand Jesus if s/he does not understand him/herself as a part of the church living in communion.
The gospel this Sunday (in what is known as the Discourse on the Church) speaks of the nature of the church (which is unity) and the enemy of church (which is dissension). The greatest charge of the Christian disciple is to "love one another as the Lord has loved us." If one is a "follower" of Jesus who is not living in communion with the Church, then s/he is no Christian at all. Pope Francis said recently, "if your first name is Christian, your last name must be church."
Individualism, self-fulfillment, and the drive for personal salvation have blocked us from living the faith of Jesus which is communion in love of the brothers and sisters. Remember, "if you come to offer your gift to God at the altar and there recall that your brother has something against you, go and reconcile with your brother, then come and offer your gift." There is no real friendship with God when we are at odds with our brothers.
Have you understood your Christian faith to be such an inter-personal reality? How do you understand the simple truth about church? It ain't easy, right?
Get into the ring! How this works...
This is easy! Each week on Thursday I post my homily idea...my main focus for preaching this coming Sunday. What I am hoping for is a reaction from people in the pews. Does my "focus" connect with your daily life, faith, and experience? Or not? Either affirm the direction I am going in (by giving me an example from your life) or challenge me, ask for clarification! Questions are the best! Reaction rather than reflection is what I'm looking for here. Don't be afraid, get in the ring. Ole!