Archbishop Dolan: Love for Jesus and His Church Must be the Passion of our Lives!
makes us genuinely human.
The Church loves God's world like His only begotten Son did. She says yes to everything that is good, decent, honorable and ennobling about the world, and only says no when the world itself negates the dignity of the human person . . . and, as Father Robert Barron reminds us, "saying 'no' to a 'no' results in a 'yes '!"
To invite our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see Jesus and His Church as one is, of course, the task of the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits, and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn's Synod on the New Evangelization. Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry fishing poles instead of croziers.
Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see Jesus and His Church as one.
First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance.
As the Holy Father remarked just recently in his homeland of Germany, "Many see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to . . . evaluating and dealing, with such a complex entity of the 'Church'."
The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement.
The Church is Jesus -- teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often "bruised, derided, cursed, defiled."
The Church is a communio, a supernatural family. Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families. So, the Church is in our spiritual DNA. The Church is our home, our family.
In the Power and the Glory, when the young girl asks him why he just doesn't renounce his Catholic faith, the un-named "Whisky Priest" replies:
"That's impossible! There's no way! It's out of my power."
Graham Greene narrates: "The child listened intently. She then said, 'Oh, I see, like a birthmark'."
To use a Catholic word, Bingo! Our Church is like a birthmark. Founded by Christ, the Church had her beginning at Pentecost, but her origin is from the Trinity. Yes, her beginning is in history, as was the incarnation, but her origin is outside of time.
Our urgent task to reclaim "love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives" summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord. Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protests: Verbum Dei rather than our verbage.
God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.
Now, and here's number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some "dysfunction."
As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."
It might seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget every Church-teaching except for the one truth our culture is exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet: the sinfulness of her members! That's the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows its head and genuflects with crusading devotion!
We profess it, too. With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!
One big difference: we who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more! The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church.
Like Him, she, too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding them, or denying them, she may be best showing them, like He did that first Easter night.
As Monsignor John Tracy Ellis used to introduce his courses on Church history, "Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts."
And we passionately love our bride with wrinkles, warts, and wounds all the more.
We bishops repent as well. At least twice a day -- at Mass, and at compline -- we ask Divine mercy. Often do we approach the Sacrament of Penance.
One thing both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree upon is the answer to this question: who's to blame for people getting mad at or leaving the Church? Their unanimous answer?
. . . nice to meet you! We're the cause, they never tire of telling us.
Less shrill voices might comfort us by assuring us that's not true. Nice to hear . . .
But we are still sincere in often praying "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" -- and we don't have to wait for the First Sunday of Advent to do it.
As Gregory the Great observed fifteen centuries ago: "the Church is fittingly pictured as dawn . . . dawn only hints that night is over. It does not reveal the full radiance of the day. While it indeed dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it presents both of them . . . so does the Church."
Bishops, thanks for listening.
I look out at shepherds, fishermen, leaders, friends.
I look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a ring on his finger, because we're spoken for, we're married.
Our episcopal consecration has configured us so intimately to Jesus that He shares with us His bride, the Church.
There's nothing we enjoy doing more than helping our people, and everybody else, get to know Him and her better. That's our job description.
Because . . . "Love for Jesus and His Church is the passion of our lives!"
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Archbishop Dolan, USCCB, Bishops conference, Love the Church, Love the Lord, Ecclesiology
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