Keeping Things Straight
Thoughts on the First Readings
Feast of the Assumption of Mary
Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10a

“There’s nothing we can do about the church. They’ve got all the power. We don’t count. They think that God speaks to them so they don’t have to listen to us and they’re sure that we’re too worldly to have anything useful to say anyway. Catholics have two choices: do what we’re told or quit. And, if you’re so naïve to think that quitting sends them a message, think again. They’re absolutely certain that anyone who leaves wasn’t a good Catholic to start with. You can’t win with these guys.”

Now that was a rant!

I’d quibble with little of it. The woman was venting a frustration that many lay Catholics, for good reason, share. Still, it’s not the heart of the Catholic reality.

My brother and his wife often speak of their admiration for the Amish community near which they live. In many ways my brother finds these people embodying Jesus’ vision. It’s interesting that speaking about them he never mentions the internal structure of their community or how they foster unity among their many settlements. He’s not commented on their doctrines, worship services or how they govern their community. What he finds attractive in the Amish is their love and peace.

The soul of our Church isn’t its doctrines, its governance or even its sacramental rituals, as important as these are. The heart of the Catholic Church is the Spirit of Jesus that works through us to bring love and justice to the world. Everything in the Church exists to support the work of this Spirit. Nothing in the Church controls this Spirit. The actions of the Church’s members – lay or clerical – facilitate or hinder the Spirit’s work but they don’t control it.

Back to the rant. The Church lives in a difficult time. It’s important to keep a clear perspective. Jesus’ Spirit is the real power in our community, the real source of our community’s unity is that Spirit. The real goal of our community is to help others become aware of and live in harmony with that Spirit.

We can’t attribute to anyone else the power, the unity or the gift that is the Spirit’s alone.