Gospel Thoughts 20 May 2012, Ascension

May 15, 2012 at 18:28 Leave a comment


In the Gospel Story for the Feast of the Ascension (Mark 16:15-20) Jesus says, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned”. The gospel Jesus taught was simply based on his command to “Love one another”. He seemed more concerned that his followers live his teaching than that they use the right words to define it. His disciples “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs”.

Jesus did not found an institution to standardize his teaching, but in effect told his disciples to teach by example. The institution came later, and with it rules, definitions, and standards – all of which became the basis for judging folks in terms of how well they lived up to someone’s interpretation of the organization’s systems. Some say Jesus founded the institution, others, that while he might not have founded it directly it is what he had in mind, still others say he had very little to do with it, and that it has become the same kind of institution he criticized in his lifetime. Interesting discussions.

Jesus said “love one another, not ”judge one another”. He did not judge, yet the institution purported to be continuing his mission does a lot of judging, going so far as to deny full Eucharist access to folks who don’t fit certain criteria established by the institution. A sad consequence of this is that the institution is having diminishing influence on all of us who really need the gospel the institution claims uniquely to be teaching. Life as preached by the institution is not the life being lived by the folks every day. And so the institution and its leaders have little influence or impact on the rest of us. The investigations of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Girl Scouts, not to mention the abuse cases around the world, aren’t helping. Folks are walking away, or just paying lip service. Leadership just isn’t getting it.

While there is no denying the gospel work accomplished by the institution (examples like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services come to mind along with numerous other local efforts), there is also no denying that the gospel is happening powerfully among folks in the pews or who used to be in the pews, or were never in the pews, with little or no reference to the institution, or, at times, in spite of the institution. Many good folks are simply helping each other live a decent life. They don’t do much in the way of judging, they just accept each other and help. They see no reference to living the gospel because for many the gospel is perceived as a batch of laws and doctrines having little relation to their real everyday life and enforced by threats, and they are doing well enough without it.

The folks deal with real persons and real life, while the institution focuses on abstract principles and ideals free of the messiness and entanglements of real life and the human condition. In the absence of strong leadership by example, it looks like it is up to the folks to support each other and work together to figure out what the gospel is calling folks to right here right now, with whomever is in our life — pretty much what Jesus told his followers to do. Leadership could learn a lot if they would spend time with the folks (without, of course, the fancy clothes), looking to learn rather than issue edicts. There is a big disconnect here.

It is increasingly clear, with so many folks being in this position, that it is possible to love the gospel while criticizing the institution, as well as to love the ideal of the institution while criticizing the way it is organized, structured, and operated. Many parts of the institution are completely separated from the real lives of the folks it would reach out to. Of course, thoughts along these lines often are seen as a threat by the institution and many of its members for whom the institution is always right in every way.

As the Story says, “they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs”. This is still happening. The Spirit is alive and well and very involved. Many good folks are working hard for the good of the church and the service of the gospel. The movements in Ireland and Austria, as well as in our own country and city, are a few examples. A number of these folks are being treated harshly for their efforts, and still they continue the work the Spirit gives them. The gospel is happening without doubt.

Just sayin . . .

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Forbidden topics, Gospel thoughts, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Gospel Thoughts 13 May 2012, Part 2 Pentecost, Thoughts on Current Situation

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