Monday, February 16, 2009

Christ as Sacrament

Jesus Christ...The Word Made Flesh.

I guess that's why Catholic Christianity speaks the truth to me. There have been times in the past where I have despaired, and considered leaving the Church. Funny though, I never considered another Christian denomination. As far as understanding God, I need that sacrament - something I can touch, taste and feel. Catholicism has an intensely physical faith - The Word Made Flesh is all around us in the context of Church. To quote Fr. Vin Ritchie, our former associate pastor at St. Bernard's , Jesus is the purest expression of Love in human terms - something we can experience, something we can relate to, as beings of a spiritual and physical nature.

From, the physicality of Christ healing the blind man with mud and spit, to healing the deaf man by thrusting His fingers into the man's ears, to the comfort and satiation of a meal, to the violent death on the cross, to St. Thomas thrusting his hands into the Risen Christ's wounds, our faith is intensely physical. It is brought to fruition in the context of the Greatest Sacrament of the Eucharist, where the sacrifice of the cross is made spiritually and physically present to the faithful. No other Christian faith I have seen celebrates both the physical in-the-world aspect of Christ who dwelt in our midst, as well as the mystical Christ who is and always has been One with God.

Sometimes, I get frustrated with what I see as deficiencies in the Church. I see the abuse scandals and the cover-up, a sometimes out of touch and unfeeling hierarchy, doctrines that seem out of touch with the spiritual needs of modern mankind. I get angry knowing my Godson was baptized by a priest who turned out to be an abuser. I get angry in the knowledge that the priests who touched my life most dramatically, who began my love affair with the Church in the first place, both had to leave the priesthood because they fell in love with women. I get angry at the ham-handed way the Pastoral Formation Institute (a 2 year college level course for lay leadership in the diocese) was dismantled and the faithful staff who had worked so hard to build it and get their accreditation were summarily dismissed - it seems as if the current administration in our diocese wished to officially invalidate the profound spiritual experiences I and my classmates had. I sometimes long for that Super-Church* - pure, spiritual, impeccable: a Church within which I would never have to wrestle with the angels, there would be no doubt.

However, the very things that gets me angry about the Church are the things that will not allow me to leave her. The Sacramental Church IS her sinners and saints, her rich and poor, her doubters, her traitors, and heroes. Is my Godson any less baptized because he had a scoundrel that presided over his initial baptismal Sacrament? No. Are the men who led me to life and light in the Church when I was growing up any less the priests today when they were back then? No. Are the profound spiritual experiences I and my classmates had in PFI any less valid because the bishop changed up the program? Again, no.

I am a member of Christ's mystical Body, whether I always know it or not, whether I always like it or not. God knows I am not who I would have chosen for such a thing. As a Catholic Christian who follows the way of St. Francis, I am to strive to live my life in that Gospel context. I will fail from time to time, sometimes, willfully. The comfort is that from the Pope to every lay man and woman in the pews wrestles with the angels. If we all strive to live the Gospel life as we are called to do, we can rebuild and be the Church we are meant to be.

Daily Mass Reading
Genesis 4:1-15, 25
Psalms 50:1,8, 16-17, 20-21
Mark 8:11-13

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