Posted on: August 20th, 2013 (Struggling to) Let God be God

God has been showing me many new things of late, but for months now there is one truth, one dimension of reality, which seems to be dogging me, as if the Holy Spirit is really trying to get my attention.

Do you remember those passages (there are several of them), contained in the four Gospels, in which “the crowds” – it’s interesting how in the Jesus stories “the crowds” functions virtually like a major character in the plot – are following, chasing after Jesus? In the stories we find Jesus walking around embodying the Kingdom of God in his person, in his words, in his deeds, and quite reasonably the crowds of fellow Jews flock to him and pine after him, looking for a blessing, looking for encouragement and help, looking for relief.

And time and time again, what does Jesus do? How does he react to these throngs of hurting and broken people who are in desperate need? Time and time again, not always, but certainly most of the time, Jesus the Good Shepherd and Great Physician does something which, if one stops and ponders it, is mind boggling.

Time and time again, he runs away from them. He avoids him. If they are going one direction, Jesus heads inthe other direction. He hides from them. He tries to escape from them.

Why does he do this? He does it in order to be alone. In order to seek his Father’s face. In order to find rest. In order to be in God’s presence. In order to regroup. Perhaps we could say, “in order to keep, or to regain, his sanity.”

As one who is set apart for ministry in the church (that means I’m supposed to “help people,” right?) I find this riveting. This is food for thought. This is fuel for reflection and a new paradigm for what it means to serve God in the world.

Because – think about this with me – who is it that is in those crowds? Of whom do those swarms of people consist? If we imagine these stories as they invite us to imagine them, we begin to realize that those crowds are saturated with people who are hurting beyond measure. Those crowds are full of the same kinds of people who have seemed to be filling my life recently. People who are on the brink of divorce; people who will literally die if they don’t get medical attention; people who are on the brink of mental and emotional breakdown.

Think about it. Jesus was being pursued by people on the brink of death and divorce, and he fled from them. He could have “saved” them, but he did not. What this means is that their marriages actually ended in bitter, painful divorce. They really died. They really had mental breakdowns and collapses.

What in the world is going on? When you stop and think about it, it is pretty amazing. It prompts an epiphany of how – and why – we do ministry.

At the end of the day, I must stop trying to “save” everyone and everything. I must let God be God.

If the one person in the history of the human race really could solve everybody’s problems, then surely those of us who cannot should stop trying to, stop pretending that we can.

In the intense, daily work of Gospel ministry, I, we, must finally let God be God. 


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Posted on: August 8th, 2013 (The heart of) Catholic Ecclesiology

The heart of what I call “catholic ecclesiology” is the conviction that Christ is fully and completely bound to the church as a corporate, visible body.

One can discuss catholic ecclesiology in terms of space, and in terms of time.

In space catholic ecclesiology is the idea that what binds the church together in unity is more fundamental than ideological positions which fall outside the purview of the mind of the universal church. Ultimately what binds the church together in unity is performance of the liturgy, which is the deepest corporate participation in Christ, with brothers and sisters in community. Hence I might vehemently disagree with a sister on all sorts of issues (for example, issues having to do with human sexuality), but we are still bound together in Christ. Hence we experience the deepest possible level of unity.

The denial of this spatial catholicity is seen when subcatholic ideologies are allowed to rupture the unity of the church, such that people who disagree, especially bishops, the focal point of unity in the church, no longer participate together in the (eucharistic) liturgy.

In time catholic ecclesiology is the idea that, over the peaks and valleys of history, the church will emerge faithful and victorious. Is the church locked into a vicious cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, a seemingly endless repetition of the fate of Old Covenant Israel? Catholic ecclesiology says “no,” and insists that history is on the side of the institutional church, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, that the church is qualitatively more spirit-infused than (because it is a fulfillment of) Old Covenant Israel.

The denial of this temporal catholicity is seen when theologians imply, or when people think or assume, that the church’s unfaithfulness will perpetuate itself indefinitely, a move which locates cosmic salvation outside the church, with a Christ who is isolated and disembodied.

Both denials, that of spatial catholicity and that of temporal catholicity, sever Christ from the church. But catholic ecclesiology always holds them together. Christ is the sacrament of God, and the church is the sacrament of Christ.

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Posted on: August 6th, 2013 Sign of the Times: Reason:Faith::Bezos:Moon::Post:Times

In his 2006 Regensburg address, Pope Benedict XVI (controversially and polemically) diagnosed the malaise of the modern west in terms of the separation of faith and reason (theology / revelation and philosophy) a development which one can see beginning in Avicenna, but which really developed in the late medieval period.

It is difficult to imagine a more apt symbol of this split than the ownership of the two leading newspapers in the nation’s capital, the political center of the planet’s sole superpower.

The leading newspaper in the capital city of planet’s lone superpower is now controlled by a dot com and one Jeff Bezos. Can anyone doubt that zombies are right around the corner?

Which is worse: the Moonies (who control the _Washington Times_ or the MNC’s (multinational corporations)?

It is difficult to imagine a more apt symbol of contemporary America, and  its separation of the “rationalism” of the global “free market” on the one hand, and the fundamentalism of modern religion on the other.

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