We have in the last few weeks emphasised the difference between the what and the how. The Church has so much to offer – the what of the Gospel which is proclaimed through

WORD and SACRAMENT. The basic what remains constant but the how must vary with the time.

Le us anchor everything on a few words from

TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 1: 21b – 28] and be challenged by two phrases – what is this? and a new teaching! At once recall some words of Jesus: do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete. {see Matthew 5: 17} The paradox is – it was not a new teaching but it was a new teaching.

The Church, including every one of us, must be wary of putting down its roots in one particular location (space) of history. This is what had happened to the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus. The what had become more important than the how. The moment we begin to make any particular space of history the acid test of so-called orthodoxy we forfeit appreciation and acceptance of the temporal and historical nature of the Church’s earthly pilgrimage.

We are a pilgrim people. The Church, therefore, is a pilgrim Church. Christ journeys

with us in our own time – and his journey is never ‘cemented’ in or confined to any specific space or location. The authentic disciple is one who travels after, who follows – and we neither travel nor follow by remaining in one particular space. As Pope Francis has said: “reality is greater than ideas.” Reality is discovered in the time not in the space. We have to deal with the times in which we live, and the Church must be a magnet, working by attraction – with an attitude of friendship towards the world. In other words it is a matter of HOW the Church ministers in TODAY’S WORLD. We must not become trapped in any particular space.

Indeed, there is a need for some sort of good order. We are reminded of this in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1CORINTHIANS 7: 32 – 35]. The apostle writes: this for your own benefit, not to lay restraint … but promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. It is possible to have good order without the laying of restraints which belong to a particular space. The focus is always to secure undivided devotion to the Lord. The mission of the Church is about salvation – and salvation is only achieved by a pilgrim people who are on, and in, a journey. As individual disciples and as Church our function is not to control the future. The pilgrim people of God must travel and not be trapped in any particular space.

It is little use to ‘dump’ the entire challenge of making this journey on the ‘official’ Church. Each one of us, every member, traps the Church in a particular space when we cling to and grasp particular whats and refuse to become involved in the hows of reaching out with a new effort to those of our brothers and sisters who have lost the Gospel. We have to walk with them! We walk with them when we share the gift of the Gospel – not impose it. If the what we have shared has failed them then we need to examine the how. This challenges me. It challenges you. It challenges us.

O that TODAY you will listen to his voice! Harden not your heartsis how TODAY’S PSALM [95 or 94] expresses the challenge.

In

OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [DEUTERONOMY 18: 15 – 20] we read of the Lord God proclaiming that I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them … . In a real way each one of us must be prepared to be raised up and willing to speak to OUR time in a manner which becomes a magnet. If we trap ourselves in a particular space, we trap the Lord. We must all seek a more authentic way of knowing and learning. This way must be out of and away from any personally favoured space.

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