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Ferment in the Dough

7/27/2003 - 3:10 PM PST

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FAITH AND CULTURE

Ferment in the Dough

By Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

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“Every believer, in this, our world, must be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying ferment in the dough: He will be so to the degree that, in his innermost being, he lives in communion with God. In fact, there can be no peace among men if there is no peace in each one of them."

Pope John XXIII


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When I was a first year law student (what now seems a lifetime ago) I had a two fold recipe for overcoming “stress”. Funny, how the definition of that word changes as the decades go by. I would run daily and bake bread every Friday evening. Both practices were extraordinarily therapeutic during a very intense time.

The first year of law school is structured almost as a form of hazing. I think it is intended to winnow the class and – at least hypothetically- to insure that the future members of the bar are more effective in their chosen profession. As a Christian, I knew that it was to be much more. It was, as are all experiences in the lives of those who are submitted to the Lord, a time for conversion, learning and growth. The choice was mine.

From running, I discovered some amazing things about myself. I came to experience my own weaknesses (which seem to have grown even larger over all these years) as well as my potential. I have been working on both for a very long time.

From baking bread, I learned about the Christian vocation. That’s right! Baking bread teaches us about the vocation of both the individual Christian and the mission of the entire Church in the midst of the world.

Throughout the two millennia of Christian history there has been a lot of confusion concerning the relationship Christians are to have with “the world”. There is confusion regarding this very issue in the contemporary Christian community. If we do not get the basics right concerning this vital subject we will be ineffective in fulfilling the missionary mandate of the Church and we will also fall short of the call of our Baptismal vocation.

Loving the world

As Christians we are called to “love the world” as God loves the world. Because we live in Jesus Christ, He continues His redemptive mission in and through each one of us! Through our Baptism we actually have become members of the Body of Christ on earth. Truly understanding and grasping the implications of this reality is about more than piety. It should change the entire way we view our human existence. It is reality.

We now live our daily lives in the Lord and in His Church. In a very real sense, we actually live in the Church and go into the world. One of the titles that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council ascribed to the Church (one that is also found in early patristic literature) is that the Church is the “the world reconciled.”

Some of the confusion concerning the Christians’ relationship to the world also comes from the remnants, the lasting effects, of one of the earliest heresies in Christian history. It was called Manicheeism. The followers of this error believed that all matter was evil. That is absolutely NOT the Christian belief. In fact, Christians profess a belief in a bodily resurrection and the coming of a new heaven and new earth!

Yet, this error of viewing matter as evil has deep roots even still within some segments of Christianity. It leads to a kind “ghetto mentality” leading some Christians to withdraw from the world and not participate in the “world”. Sometimes these folks build little subcultures, withdrawing from the very people whom God still loves and whom He lovingly desires to reach through the Body of Christ. Following this approach, Christians can often become irrelevant, ineffective or, in some instances, pharisaical.

Some of the confusion also results from the various ways that the phrase “the world” is used in the biblical texts. The phrase “the world” is used in two very distinct ways. There is “the world” that God created and looked upon and said “it is good”. (See e.g. Genesis, chapter 1). That world is still good. It is filled with beauty and reflects the Divine artist and architect who made it. That beautiful world He entrusted to the crown of his creation - man and woman.

God created us for Himself. He made us in His very image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). He placed us within this created world with a purpose. God still loves that world so much that He sent His only Son into it to save it! (John 3:16). He still walks in that world through His Body, the Church. His mission is a saving mission and He has invited us into the entire plan. He wants to bring the entire human race back into a relationship with Him through ...

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