I recall from many decades ago a description of theology as faith in search of understanding. The definition has served me well. Indeed, the Christian faith is a search for...
Do you recall last Sundays Gospel extract which told us, among other matters, that “a prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house?” Well, take a look at THIS WEEKS OLD TESTAMENT READING [AMOS 7: 12 – 15].
There you will see and hear the words – “Go away, seer, … do your prophesying there … we want no more … this is the national temple.”
Now we should take a look at OUR GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 6: 7 – 13]. There we read the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples as they embarked on their first missionary, teaching, expedition: “and if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.” Here we are faced with a common prophetic gesture from the Old Testament. It is used by Jesus to bolster the prophetic mission of his disciples.
All this has a demanding and contemporary challenge not only for us, ourselves, but also for the Church in general – especially for leaders of all believing, worshipping, communities – from the Pope down through the offices of the Roman Curia, and on to bishops, parish priests and parishioners.
The Church needs contemporary prophets (individuals and groups) who challenge the status quo. They are seldom popular. Yet, their presence and loyal criticism are important for the ongoing, dynamic, life of the Church.
The established way of doing things is not alwaysthe best way for THE PRESENT – even though they might well have been effective in a previous time. Society is a dynamic, living, thing – and so is the Church. One of the most traditional theological maxims insists that the Church is always in need of reform. If this is to be constructive then we must all learn to be more accepting of the contemporary prophets within the Church. It is counterproductive to tell them to go away(worse still to impose silence) – and hide behind the outdated (and ineffective!) fortress of some national temple. The Church is not a museum!
At our baptisms (immediately after the pouring of water) every Christian-Catholic is anointed with chrism as the following words are proclaimed: “as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live as a member of his body …” Now, this body is the Church. We are members of the Church. We belong to the Church. WE ARE THE CHURCH! It follows that each one of us must develop our individual abilities to become more effective as priests (helping to bring wholeness), prophets (challenging the status quo and offering our own Christian vision of what the Church should be and become), and kings (helping to guide and lead Gods people in the pursuit and service of truth).
Servile compliance is NOT a virtue. Correctness can become a terrible inhibition. There is the truth in the basics we have been taught. Then, there is the truth of what we observe and experience. This truth is followed by the truth of how we interpret what we observe and experience. THIS is the truth of real wisdom which is far more important that merely being well-informed about the basic principles of correctness. We must invest heavily, with both mind and heart, in our baptismal calling.
Each one of us must be aware of the real aspects of the Churchs pastoral, theological, scriptural, and administrative life. It is vital that we become more and more familiar with the Scriptures and their authentic application to our ordinary, day-to-day, living, pursuits, difficulties and struggles.
Against this background reflect on words from TODAYS PSALM [84 or 85]. “I will hear what the Lord God has to say … his help is near … his glory will dwell in our land … faithfulness shall spring from the earth … the Lord will make us prosper.” It should never be a matter of pursuing some sort of private agenda, or gaining status and control (neither should it be a question of retaining status and control!). Rather, prophetic questioning and opinions must be made known for the general advancement and progress of the Church as a whole – and always as a result of prayerful discernment of what the Lord God has to say. We must have a regard for continuity and stability – but marry this with a regard for development and growth. We must never freeze certain forms and equate them with the essence of Catholicism.
If we take the NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 1: 3 – 14] into account we will begin to accept that the “Lord has a kind purpose for us … to know the mystery of (this) … a hidden plan.” This plan is not yet fully known. Each one of us must contribute to its unveiling.