Church Renewal and Reform

We spent the weekend immersed in Church reform. First we attended and were inspired by the American Catholic Council Listening Session in Jacksonville. Being reminded of the immense promise of Vatican II for authentic Christian life in our Church, we left committed to working for reform and renewal in the Church. The, we switched gears slightly as we motored on down the road to St. Augustine for our meeting with the Pax Christi Florida State Council. Another challenge of immense proportions—working for justice in our Church and world. We wordsmithed until out little hearts were content in order to finalize a vision statement, a mission statement and an action plan.

The work of the weekend reminds me as I distance myself from it and take perspective of several important truths. Maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that wisdom—seeing the inner depth of meaning, seeing as God sees—is a GIFT. Knowing that all gifts come from God, we must then learn in God’s language—silence. We must step aside from planning and talking and wordsmithing in order to hear God, to receive the gift of wisdom. God’s ways are not our ways and we have to be attuned to God in silence. I love the symbol of God as the Good Shepherd. I also think that a more modern symbol is of God as my GPS—leading me and guiding me in God’s ways to the destination God has in mind. God is literally the small still voice guiding me.

Second, the work of the weekend and the ongoing work of Church reform and renewal leads me back to Merton’s big caution. It is something that all mystics know so well—we are not responsible for the results. Merton was wont to remind us to be faithful to the task and to leave the results in God’s hands. Knowing the authoritarianism of some of the clergy and most of the hierarchy, reform and renewal seem to be daunting tasks. We must again listen to God speaking within the depths of our being and calling us forth to love and justice. It is God’s work, not ours.

Third, activism must be supplemented by prayer. In the Gospels, Jesus told the disciples that they could not cast the demon out of the boy because “This kind can only come out through prayer.” Prayers of petition and fasting accompany the prayer of silence. We must ask God to do what he wants to do for the Church and we know that God wants mercy not sacrifice.

Finally, we must read and WORD OF God. The only way we can know the will of God is by attuning ourselves to God’s word. Bible study and lectio divina help us to grow in wisdom, age and grace. This is critical because so much of what is put forth as defined dogma is not grounded in the scriptures. Is celibacy for the secular clergy mandated by the Bible? Is the ordination of women prescribed by the Bible?

I think we are right back at pray, study, act. We know that the Holy Spirit was the moving force behind Vatican II. To try to rollback—after all the church is not WalMart—the reforms and renewal of Vatican II is the ultimate sin—the sin against the Spirit! When we pray, study and act, the Holy Spirit will guide our actions toward the proper end.

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