Holy, yet in need of purification


This marks my return to the online community and reviving my blog after more than a year of hiatus. I cannot exactly recall why I stopped writing for this blog.

Nevertheless, I have been itching to write. Now, my fingers are finally working on the keyboard of my laptop and find myself writing. And it is timely that I will be writing about a topic close to my heart. But I do not claim; least, assume; full mastery of the subject matter. I leave it to my former classmates who are more versed and updated with their ecclesiology.

Quite recently, the Catholic Church had been rocked by controversies. Various accusations have been labelled against the universal Church. In the Philippines, the Church and her leaders (bishops and priests and other religious) have been called names. In the online forums, priests and bishops are ridiculed. Some aggressive commenters go as far as telling the bishops and priests to keep quiet on important issues that affect our life as a nation, because as some bloggers say ‘the Church is far worse a sinner than the rest of us’.

 

Personally, I am not totally alarmed by this. This is not new to the Church. Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th Danish philosopher, religious thinker and theologian, observing the realities of his times, noted that there was ‘a general high regard for Jesus, and general dislike for the Church’. Many things can be said about our general dislike for the Church. But Kierkegaard’s thought leads me to reflect on the present reality.

I wish to share my thought from the perspective of the one who loves the Church, being a religious once in my life. This is my bias- I am a Catholic who tries to live my sensus fidei in the daily affairs of the life I chose to face. While the accusations against the Holy Mother Church may be warranted, they are not the whole picture. One accusation is that the Church has lost her moral ascendancy to command obedience because there have been leaders (bishops and priests) who have lived ‘less than holy’ life. That these people are not fit to be emulated, that these people do not live according to their calling. Such accusations hurt. But I wish to say that this is not the whole truth. I know some priests and religious who suffer a lot on the account of the Catholic faith and the Church they serve.

I know some missionaries who are walking miles and miles in order to reach poor communities, to make God’s love real and known, to serve the last, the least and the lost. These missionaries and lay leaders (who really inspire me) labour and toil under and amidst the insecurities of their times and situations but still carry on the mission entrusted to the Church. They are faithful and they are far from the dazzling lights of media attention. Are they materials for the news feeds? Are they actually reported as news? Never. Yet, how many of us, those of us who criticise the Church, think of and even remember these workers who work silently in the Lord’s vineyard? While we allow criticism to rule our day, do we even pause for a while and pray and thank the Lord for these people who are faithful to the mission entrusted to them?

In a number of casual conversations with friends, I feel that as believers, we are also affected by the crises of the Church. We are mindful of the controversies surrounding the Church. We share and exchange views. On a personal note, I think that with the present crises, I think it is a prompting of the Spirit for the Church to look at her identity and her mission. The ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council teaches us that the Church is the people of God, living in communion in the faith, mirroring the Trinity and journeying into her fulfilment in love in the fullness of time. What this emphasises is that the Church is a community bound in and by love. These are rich theological propositions. (And I might be inspired to write about them some other time. Hopefully, if and when that time comes, my theology shall be sound enough.)

Such theology invites us, the faithful, to look at ourselves. How easy it is for us to criticise and say that we no longer believe in the Church because her ministers are not living holy lives. But are we doing our share? Why is it easy for us to read pocketbooks and novels, but we do not even exert efforts to read the Bible? Why is it so easy for us to watch showbiz oriented talks in the television but very hard for us to watch programs that explain the scriptures? Because we do not want to enrich our faith. Why is it easy for us to belt rock, R&B, and love songs on the top of our voices, but we cannot even hum the tune of religious songs sung in the religious celebrations in the Church? Shall we blame the priests? The bishops? In short, what do we do to grow in our Christian life and propagate the faith?

I am tempted to illustrate the ecclesial life through the image of our household or family. If we are aware that our families are undergoing crises and problems, and our elders or parents are not faithful to their calling, how do we relate with them? How do we deal with the shortcomings of our own household? Our answers to these basic questions speak a lot about the way we approach the crises of the Church. Certainly these crises are not new; nor is it the last that we shall hear about them.

As for the Church, these present crises may promptings of the Spirit. Who knows, perhaps these are calls for deeper aggiornamento? This is an opportunity for an honest examen. The Church must not be frightened because the God who called Her is faithful and He will do it. The present controversies provide unique opportunities for the Church to re-commit to Her identity and mission. If the Church had survived the amidst the problems in Kierkegaard’s time, She shall survive these present problems. One of the things I learned in the seminary that I still recall and believe is ‘God does not call us to be effective. He calls us to be faithful.

As for all of us, both faithful and church leaders, with our sensus fidei and sensus fidelium, we must always remember what Lumen Gentium (The Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) tells us that our Church is holy, yet in need of purification.

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