Bishops as Teachers: Bishop Myers on Marriage and Cardinal Wuerl on the Church
"Why should I be a member of the Catholic Church?" follows on the response to the question "What is the Catholic Church?" The short answer to these questions is that the Catholic Church is the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in the world - in our day and time. The Church is the Body of Christ. This revealed teaching is not metaphorical language. Nor is it just a figurative way of speaking about the Church. Sacred Scripture holds up the Body of Christ for our creedal profession in a very real, literal sense. We will examine the identity of Christ with his Church as we move through these reflections."
"Again, the simplest answer to the question, "What is the Catholic Church?" is that the Church is the presence of Christ in the world today. The Church is variously described in the pages of Sacred Scripture as the Body of Christ and as the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth."
I am what is now routinely called a 'revert" to the Church. Though raised as a Catholic, I fell away from the practice of the ancient faith. My teenage search for truth finally led me home.
The route was circuitous. Among the places it led was my reading the "fathers" (early leaders) of the first centuries of the Church. In ancient Christian writings I discovered how the early Christians viewed their participation in the Church as integral to their belonging to Jesus Christ. The Church is fundamentally relational.
The Church is God's plan for every culture and for the entire world. We live in the Church. We may leave our buildings after Liturgy but we never leave our communion with the Lord and, in Him, with one another for the sake of the world. The early Fathers called her the "world reconciled". In its treatment of the Church, the Catechism explains:
"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (CCC#845)
The Catholic Church needs conversion at every level. Many Catholics do not know what their Church teaches. Some embrace a "cafeteria Catholicism"- choosing what parts of the faith they will follow. A pervasive and practical atheism has had a corrosive effect, evident in those who claim the title Christian and profess the ancient Christian Creed at Mass but fail to live it during the rest of the week.
How many Catholics understand the full implications of their own Baptism? How many understand what the Church teaches? How many experience the Church as a "mother", or live their lives in the Church as a "communion"? How many have come to perceive the Church as "Some - One" rather than some-thing?
Yet, it is this kind of living faith which is needed. Is it supposed to only be the experience of the "mystics", the talk of the Saints and Fathers? Or, is it supposed to be the truly common experience of every Christian? The answer is clear; it is to be the common experience of all Christians.
It is interesting that both of these letters were released on September 14, 2012, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. That is no accident. The Cross will triumph in our own age as the Church is awakened to proclaim its full meaning in word and in deed.
We live in a new missionary age. For the Church to accomplish her mission she needs a fully converted and well formed clergy, religious and lay faithful who, as the fruit of the New Evangelization, joyfully their place in the work. What a treasure we have in great teaching Bishops who send us such letters in this critical hour. They are setting the pace. We should pray for them and be fed by their ministry.
- - -
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: Church, ecclesiology, marriage, family, cafeteria Catholicism, Archbishop John J. Myers, Newark, Donald Cardinal Wuerl., Washington, New Evangelization, Deacon Keith Fournier
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