More Thoughts on Church Renewal

Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it. (Mk 10:15)

Sirach tells us that we are created in the image of God. We bear divinity within us. The Creator has filled us with wisdom so that we can see and hear as the Creator sees and hears. The capstone is that Jesus become human so that we might become divine.

Mark reminds us that we must accept the Kin-dom like a child. Children have the innate ability and need to trust. They are not taken up with their own importance and self-sufficiency. Knowing their vulnerability, they readily abandon themselves to another.

Trust is the key to understanding our relationship with the Creator. Faith is much more than a series of written defined dogmas that we perfunctorily recite. The mystics teach us that faith is a relationship of trust with the Creator and One sent among us.

Merton claimed that mystics have saved the church. Rahner, much more of a mystic than I ever expected after reading heavy theological tomes, said that the believer of the 21st century would be a mystic or not exist.

Maybe this accounts for the ideological divide in the church today. The institutional church, ruled by patriarchal prelates charged with guarding and preserving the “deposit of faith,” which is a legitimate church function when not taken to the extreme, expect faithful adherence to doctrinal pronouncements.

Vatican II recognized the people of God which includes the institutional church; however, with its emphasis on solidarity, collegiality, and the primacy of conscience, Vatican II enabled the church to much more mystical. Mysticism is not for the elect few. Mysticism is grounded is a personal experience of the divine, the Godhead living deep within each person, the imago Dei.

In a sense, the institutional church cannot define my experience of the divine. It cannot define our experience of the divine. Together we, the people of God—ordained and non-ordained—share in the infallibility of the sensus fidelium. We “define” our experience of the divine.

The current ideological debates in the church help us further define our experience of the divine. Gandhi said that every person has a piece of the truth. The institutional church acts as if it has THE truth—not so. The church, like all other human institutions has a piece of the truth.

Dialogue is of the utmost importance. Merton had the uncanny ability to peel back the onion and find what he had in common with Sufis, Buddhists, and Eastern Christianity. He lived St. Benedict’s rule—see with the eyes of the heart and hear with the ears of the heart.

The people of God will grow in wisdom, age and grace if we stop arguing and start listening to the other. This is the professed goal of the American Catholic Council ( Hopefully, the Spirit that is moving us will also move church leaders to enter into the dialogue rather than building tombstones over their own graves.

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