The Kingdom Is A Group Project
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25
All of us trying to follow Jesus want the world he promised: a good, abundant, loving life for everyone; problems arise, however, when we begin to examine the changes that vision entails. The first problem is that there will have to be changes and most of us have constructed fairly secure lives in the world the way it is. The second problem is that, even if we’re willing to accept disquieting change in pursuit of God’s promise, we still must deal with the fact that there’s no single, generally accepted, practical path leading to the world Jesus promised. There are many competing paths, most of which originate from deep intellectual and emotional commitments within their proponents.
Our faith offers a panoply of virtues to help us place our own security and contentment on hold for the sake of universal justice. It offers us far fewer resources, however, for overcoming the tension inherent in our widely divergent views about the best way to realize God’s vision.
How can Catholics who are convinced that Scripture should be understood literally cooperate with those who believe that its vision and spirit must be adapted to the language and experience of each new generation? How can people convinced that the Pope speaks the faith that God’s Spirit places in the entire community work with those convinced that the Spirit reveals only to the Pope who, in turn, tells everyone else what to believe?
Until we learn how to cooperate with such differences we’re like people walking past a starving man while arguing whether they should feed him home-made or store-bought bread. The situation would be comic were it not so critical.
There was a time when Church authority, at least in theory, solved such tensions by simply declaring one way or opinion correct. That day, if it ever existed, is gone. Modern education, mobility, communication and respect for individual autonomy has ended it.
Unless the different groups within the Church are to naively believe that they can accomplish God’s work without the cooperation of other groups, we must find the single Spirit that unites us and discover a way to work together for the vision that God gives us in Jesus.