Thank God that God is God. Any lesser being would grow frantic and confused by the stories of contemporary church experiences as well as the attitudes and conclusions of the members of the Church that are in the news these days.
Harper’s magazine's cover story for December, 2018, tells of “The Plight of Christians in an Age of Intolerance”. The author, Janine di Giovanni, takes the reader through the villages near Mosul in Iraq which have been the homes of Chaldeans Catholics since the earliest Christian centuries. Today their churches are ruined, desecrated by the Islamic State, and the people, clutching their faith close to their breasts, are leaving the area.
Likewise, di Giovanni says, the stories of Christian Palestinians, Christians in Syria and Coptic Christians in Egypt are full of violence as they are persecuted by Muslim radicals.
In the Middle East, as well as elsewhere across the globe, people are dying for their faith. By contrast, in the northern hemisphere in particular, people are leaving the Catholic Church, enraged and disgusted by the sexual abuse by clergy, but more to the point, because the hierarchy is so indecisive in taking strong action.
The lead article in the National Catholic Reporter for January 11-24, 2019 is by Melinda Henneberger, formerly of the New York Times . Entitled “Why I left the church”, Henneberger is clear that for her to stay is meant to prop up a failing institution.
Perhaps you and I stand with the Chaldean Catholics or with Melinda Henneberger or maybe we’re in between, in something of a love hate relationship with the church. Do we leave, defect in place or do we continue to love the Church for what it is at its very core?
Because that’s where we must go – to the very core of the Church, - Jesus the Christ, the Holy One, Our Savior and Brother. We can go elsewhere, and try to make ”elsewhere” our new home. That will work for some people. Will it work for you or for me? We do have to face that question and act in a way that firms up why we are where we are and what we hold close to our breast.
From January 18 (the pre-1960 feast of the chair of St. Peter) to January 25 (the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul), Christians are called to a week of prayer for Christian Unity. Most of the time, we believe that means unity among separated Christian Churches. But it could also mean that we pray for unity in our own house. Division, separation, public or silent rejection are not the only ways of dealing with obviously stressful church relationships. Let’s quiet our blood pressures and take a deep plunge into the heart of what the church means at its deepest level: the Body of Christ, the community of believers who empower one another to stay close to our Risen, ever- present Christ. Let us love those who have left, and the persecuted . Let us be the Body of Christ for one another.
~Sister Joan Sobala