The World and The Kingdom The assumption that most people make, christians and non-christians alike, is that christians are simply “nice” people living in the world. As with all assumptions, this one suffers from being overly simple to the point of being dangerous. And when christians themselves accept it, they sooner or later stumble and their spiritual life takes a hard fall. The “world” is what it appears to be: it is the physical universe around us, the human society of which we are a part, and the press of human activity that surrounds us. But it is also more than it appears to be. The “world” is also the set of values that we are encouraged to assume, the priorities that we are asked to accept, and the standard of judgement that we are told we must employ if we are to find our “place” in “the scheme of things”. As such, the World readily tries to tell us what we should put our faith in, whom we should believe, and what is worth while. The World relentlessly presses us to accept what it holds to be true, beautiful and good. The problem with the World and finding our “place” in its “scheme of things” is that it never brings any peace. There is no point at which we can be content. We never are good enough, beautiful enough, wealthy enough, important enough, valuable enough, or have enough. The World is very short on joy. When Jesus began his public ministry, His first words of Good News announced that the World is not the only “scheme of things”, that there is another possibility for human life: “After John’s arrest, Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming the good news of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand!'” Mark 1:14-15 This “other possibility”, this “different scheme of things” Jesus calls the “Kingdom of God”. He invites each of us to come and live in it. He invites us to enter it here and now. “In the World” but not “Of the World” Being a christian means being in the World but not of the World. A christian lives in the World: we live in the physical world, we are a part of human society, and we partake of the human activity around us. But a christian is not of the World: we do not allow the World to tell us what to put our faith in, whom to believe or what is worthwhile. It cannot tell us what is true, what is beautiful and what is good. Our values, our priorities and our standard of judgement are drawn from another source. They are drawn from the “Word of God” and they come from the “Mind of Christ: “Not on bread alone is man to live, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 [Deuteronomy 8:3] “‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the Mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 These new values, priorities and standard of judgement make up a whole “different scheme of things”– a “scheme of things” that christians call the “Kingdom”. Being Different Being a Christian changes your whole relationship with the World — with everyone and everything in it. As a Christian, you will need to “come to grips” with the fact that you will be different from most of the people around you. Explaining the heart and core of the difference, Saint Augustine says: “Both (of you) use temporal goods, both (of you) suffer misfortunes, but with a different faith, a different hope, a different love…” The City of God XVIII.54 Christian Survival To survive as a christian it is essential for you to understand that, while you are in the World, you are not of the World. You need to understand that the World and the Kingdom are different, and you need to gain a clear sense of how they differ. This is the purpose of this short collection of Aphorisms compar- ing the World and the Kingdom. Hopefully, it will give you a sense of how the World and the Kingdom differ, and of what it means to live in the Kingdom as opposed to the World. “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 You need to be not only aware of how the World and the Kingdom differ, you need to be firmly committed to the difference. For you will soon learn that the World makes you pay a price for being different: “The natural man does not accept what is taught by God. For him, that is absurdity… 1 Corinthians 2:14a “You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33 On Action and Character In the World, what a person does (their) actions and accomplishments) are seen as the most important contribution they make to life. Action is primary. In the Kingdom of God, what a person is (the character their form) is seen as the most important contribution they make to life. The character that acts is primary. On the Boundary of Effects In the World, anything a person does is all right as long as it does not affect anyone else. In the Kingdom of God they know that there is nothing that a person is or does that does not affect everyone and all things else. In the Kingdom of God they understand that lives touch, are interrelated and interpenetrate one another and all things. On Which Mind to Live By In the World, a person lives by their own mind and judgement. In the Kingdom of God, a person lives by the Mind of Christ. In the Kingdom of God they know that even the best of human reason and justice still falls short of love. On Things Worth Dying For In the World they hold that, while a person ought to be kind and respectful to everyone and everything, there is probably no one and certainly nothing worth dying for. In the Kingdom of God they believe that there are some things worth dying for — there are people and truths and even “another self” worth dying for. In the Kingdom of God they know that the Art of Dying is the Art of Living, and that the key to fulfillment is to know what to die for. On Freedom In the World, freedom is freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. In the Kingdom of God, freedom is freedom to do that which gives, enhances, preserves and protects life. On Means and Ends In the World, life is a means to power. The lives of others may be manipulated or even destroyed as a means to the end of achieving power. In the Kingdom of God, life is never a means to power. Power (energy, knowledge, force, wealth, learning, influence, etc.) is only a means to the end of giving, enhancing, preserving and protecting life. On the Value of a Person The World locates the value of a person in their soul and body — in the particular combination of talents and abilities they happen to possess (intelligence, artistic ability, force of will, physical beauty and agility). The Kingdom of God locates the value of a person in their spirit — in the unique manner in which they embrace God; and in the unique manner in which God uses their soul and body to touch, handle and love His world. In the Kingdom of God they believe that God is God in one person as He is capable of being God in no other; that He touches handles and loves the world through them as He is capable of touching, handling and loving the world through no one else and in no other way. Hence, in the World some people are expendable. While in the Kingdom of God no one is dispensable. On Values and Virtues In the World there are values: each person decides for himself what is true and what is good. There is no absolute truth or goodness. What is true is what is true-for-me. What is good is what is good-to-me. One person’s values are as good and true as another’s. In the Kingdom of God there are virtues: timeless and absolute truths that are true and good for all and that compel the allegiance of all. On the Human Heart and the Human World In the World, issues of the human heart and the business of the world are seen as distinct and held separate from one another. In the Kingdom of God, issues of the human heart and the business of the world are seen as intrinsically bound up with one another. In the Kingdom of God they know that what is wrong with the human world is what is wrong with the human heart. On Solutions to Human Problems In the World, solutions to problems in the human world are engineered with money and programs. In the Kingdom of God, solutions to problems in the human world begin first with an examination and change of heart. On the Use of Violence In the World, the use of violence is seldom valued in itself, yet it is tolerated and even valued in the pursuit of a just cause. The use of violence is seen as vindicated by the justice of the cause. In the Kingdom of God, the use of violence is not tolerated even in the most just of causes. And if, out of desperation or weakness, the use of violence is resorted to, its use is never seen as vindicated by the justice of the cause but mourned as a tragedy of the human spirit to be atoned for with acts of penance. In the Kingdom of God they know that violence is a monstrous evil that distorts the vision, destroys the sensitivities, and in the end deals death to those who handle it — regardless of the justice of their cause. Unless atoned for with acts of penance, it will certainly visit violence, in another form, back upon those who handled it. On Possessions In the World, a person’s wealth is measured by their possessions. In the Kingdom of God, a person’s wealth is measured by their freedom to be themselves. In the Kingdom of God they know that everything that a person possesses, possesses them. On Forgiveness In the World, forgiving is something you do for someone else — it is a kindness that sets them free from the guilt of having injured you in the past. In the Kingdom of God, forgiving is something that you do for yourself — it is a necessity that sets you free from the burden of anger, resentment and hostility you carry within you because of the past. On Autonomy In the World, autonomy is seen as the supreme personal goal. An autonomous self is the highest of personal achievements. In the Kingdom of God, communion is seen as the supreme personal goal. While autonomy is seen as a necessary stage in personal development, it is a transitory stage. Communion with God, with others, and with the living world around us is the highest of personal achievements. On Seasons and “Dyings” In the World there is but one season to a person’s life and one “dying”. The season is the Season of Self-enhancement: a continuous gathering of people and things to ourself and either the hoarding or consumption of them. The “dying” is the loss of everything in physical death. In the Kingdom of God there are two seasons to a person’s life and two “dyings”. The season of Self-enhancement ends with the first “dying”: the death to Self. The second season is the Season of Self-sacrifice and Self-surrender: a steady emptying of ourself for the life of world around us. It is a season of continuous giving that reaches its climax in the second “dying”, when astonishingly one regains all things in physical death. On Winners and Losers In the World, it is important, in the end, to come out secure and accomplished. Those who are successful are the “winners”, those who fail are the “losers”. In the Kingdom of God, it is important, in the end, to have expended your Self — to have come to the end of yourself. The World’s successful can end up “losers”; the World’s failures can end up “winners”. On Love In the World, love means warm sentiments, strong feelings, aroused expectations: a mutual enhancement of Selves conditioned by the expectation of a balance of returns. In the Kingdom of God, love means acceptance, honesty, understanding, compassion, support, self-sacrifice, faithfulness: an expression and gift of Self unconditioned by the expectation of any return. On the Two Ways The Way of the World is to take counsel of oneself, draw one’s conclusions, and build within their parameters. The Way of the Kingdom of God is Dying, Listening, and Responding. “Dying” is setting aside one’s own conclusions. “Listening” is alertness to new possibilities. “Responding” is co-operation with unexpected Grace. In the World, the scope of one’s action is bounded by oneself. In the Kingdom of God, the scope of one’s action is bounded by Divine initiative.
CHRISTIAN SERVICE Father James Chelich – 1998 Christian Service is the “anointed mission” of Jesus, the Messiah (Savior). The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord. Luke 4:18-19 This “anointed mission” to the poor, the captives, the blind and to prisoners, Jesus shares with us. It comes upon us in Baptism, it is sealed in Confirmation and it is celebrated when we receive Holy Communion which makes us the Body of Christ. This is the Jesus God has raised up, and we are his witnesses. Exalted at God’s right hand, he first received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father, then poured this Spirit out on us. Acts 2:32-33 God is the one who firmly establishes us along with you in Christ; it is He who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit, in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 The anointing you have received from Him remains in your hearts. 1 John 2:27 The “anointed mission” of Jesus to the poor, the captives, the blind and to prisoners is expressed by his Body, the Church, in Works of Mercy. I. THE CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY Come, you have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world… To Feed the Hungry For I was hungry and you gave me food… To Give Drink to the Thirsty I was thirsty and you gave me drink… To Shelter the Homeless I was a stranger and you welcomed me… To Clothe the Naked I was naked and you clothed me… To Visit the Sick I was ill and you comforted me… To Visit the the Imprisoned I was in prison and you came to visit me… To Bury the Dead I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least sisters or brothers, you did it for me. Matthew 25:34-40 II. THE SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY To Pray for the Living and the Dead At every opportunity pray in the Spirit, using prayers and petitions of every sort. Pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company. Ephesians 6:18 To Comfort the Afflicted A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell prey to robbers… A Samaritan came on him and was moved to pity. He approached him and cared for him… Luke 10:30-37 To Forgive Offenses Lord, when my brother or sister wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times? No, Jesus replied, not seven times; I say, seventy times seven times. Matthew 18:21-35 To Bear Wrongs Patiently Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you. When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give him the other. Luke 6:27-35 To Counsel the Sinner If your bother or sister should commit some wrong against you, go and point out his fault, but keep it between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won him over… Matthew 18:15-18 To Encourage the Doubtful We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those who are weak; we must not be selfish. Each should please his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit. Romans 15:1-7 To Teach the Uninformed Do you really grasp what you are reading? How can I, the man replied, unless someone explains it to me? Philip launched out with this Scripture passage…telling him the good news of Jesus. Acts of the Apostles 8:26-39 WHAT IS CHRISTIAN SERVICE? It is the anointing of Jesus that we share. It is the Works of Mercy we perform for the poor, the captives, the blind and prisoners in Jesus’ name. It is the Ministries of our Parish Community that equip and encourage people for these Works of Mercy. WHAT DOES CHRISTIAN SERVICE LOOK LIKE IN THE MINISTRIES OF SAINT THOMAS PARISH? THE CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY: To Feed the Hungry Thanksgiving and Winter Community Dinners / Food Pantry / Holiday Baskets To Give Drink to the Thirsty Blood Drives To Shelter the Homeless Emergency Rent and Utility Assistance / Habitat for Humanity Projects / Refugee Resettlement (past) / National Relief Network Excursions To Clothe the Naked Clothing Collection / Blanket Sales / Advent Angel Tree To Visit the Sick Hospital Visitation Ministry / Nursing Home Visitation Ministry / Anointing of the Sick / Healing Team Ministry To Visit the the Imprisoned Homebound Visitation Ministry / To Bury the Dead Funeral Luncheon Ministry / Funeral Liturgy Ministry THE SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY: To Pray for the Living and the Dead Sunday and Weekday Liturgies / Healing Service Petitions / Petition Box / Prayer Line Ministry / Sunday Remembrance of the Dead / All Soul’s Celebration To Comfort the Afflicted Stephen Ministry / Project Rachel Ministry / Bereavement Group / Eucharistic Ministry to the Homebound / Noon Hour of Prayer / Evenings Honoring Loss To Forgive Offenses Community Reconciliation Services To Bear Wrongs Patiently Prayer before the image of Jesus Crucified and the Blessed Sacrament / Stephens Ministry / Healing Service Ministry To Counsel the Sinner Sacrament of Reconciliation / Adult Education in Christian Morality / Chastity Education To Encourage the Doubtful Stephen Ministry / On Site Professional Counselling Availability / Mom’s Group / Men’s Group / Faith and Friendship Groups / Youth Ministry To Teach the Uninformed Adult Education Programs / Advent and Lent Book Studies / Bible Study / Women’s Reading Group / Parish School Ministry / Student Religious Education Program / Nursery School / Sunday School / Children’s Liturgy of the Word
Father James Chelich – March 2008
Sometimes we forget to ask the most fundamental questions first. Why does the Church exist? Be it a Parish Church, Diocesan Church or the Universal Church, it exists for one reason: to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.
Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.
And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
What is the task of a Christian? There is only one answer: to witness to Jesus,
to announce His presence and make known that His healing power is available to all. Jesus said:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you;
then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea
and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
And the apostles testified:
This is the Jesus God has raised up, and we are his witnesses! Acts 2:32
The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
To Feed the Hungry, To Give Drink to the Thirsty,
To Shelter the Homeless, To Clothe the Naked,
To Visit the Sick, To Visit the Imprisoned, To Bury the Dead
To Pray for the Living and the Dead, To Comfort the Afflicted,
To Forgive Offenses, To Bear Wrongs Patiently,
To Counsel the Sinner, To Encourage the Doubtful,
To Teach the Uninformed
Why does the Church do these works of mercy? Why do we, as members of the Church, do them? They are good to do, but that is not why we do them. They are just, but that is not why we do them. They are helpful to others, but that is not why we do them. We do them because they are His works! They are the works of the risen Jesus who is present with us, and who lives among us for the salvation and healing of all! Above all else a Christian and the Church preserves a living awareness of this. Our worship at Mass reminds us that we are members of his body – flesh of his flesh, and blood of his blood. If we are his body, then his body does what He does and thereby reveals His real presence to all. Our explicit and conscious desire in doing the works of mercy and working for justice is to make Jesus known!
We don’t just do them because they are good to do, or just, or helpful to others because we do not believe that by doing them we can save anyone – ourselves, others or the world. The works of mercy, as good and just and helpful as they are, cannot rid the hearts of those we help of the bitterness, anger or resentment that in many cases brought them to their present circumstances. Nor can they displace from the hearts of those who used or abused others, the fear, greed and indifference that cause them to do so. Even in those who do the works of mercy and work for justice, the works themselves, as good and just and helpful as they are, cannot shield them from the bitterness, anger and resentment that easily grows in their hearts toward those who aren’t doing the good and just and helpful things they are. It is often these resentments that collect in the hearts of the “doers of the good,” that end up seeding new hostilities that grow into new evils of injustice and indifference. Of themselves, the works of mercy cannot even sustain the consistency with which they are done. People begin doing them when thy feel good and just and helpful, and have the time; and they stop doing them when they don’t. Or they do them for those toward whom they feel disposed to be good and just and helpful, but not for those toward whom they don’t feel so disposed. The works of mercy and justice are sadly often undone by the very people who do them. All this is simply to say that the helpers are as much in need of being saved as the helped.
For the world, a work of mercy is to do something good or just or helpful for others, and to leave the human heart unaddressed. For a Christian, the first act for Justice is to address the human heart – our own, and the first work of mercy is to enter into a living relationship with Jesus, a relationship in which we find healing and are restored to an integral wholeness (i.e., “holiness”).
Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ in your hearts.
And should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours
be ever ready to reply, speaking gently and respectfully. 1 Peter 15-16
We do the works of mercy and work for justice so that in doing them we may explicitly announce the presence and power of Christ who heals the minds and hearts, as well as the bodies of the helpers and the helped. We want the works to announce His presence and His power to heal. We want our doing them to announce His presence and His power to heal. And we want the works and our involvement in them to prompt people to ask us WHY we do them. At the heart of Social Justice is a readiness to give an answer that explicitly mentions Jesus: an answer that witnesses to the right order and peace that Jesus has brought to our personal lives, as well as the clarity and balance that He has brought to our way of viewing and engaging the world; an answer that makes it clear that Jesus is present and stands ready to restore purpose, hope and healing to them as well. Otherwise doing the works of mercy becomes a way to make ourselves feel good, just and helpful, and not a way to help our fellow human beings attain healing, become whole, and engage life fully.
The works of mercy are not a bribe to sucker people into to hearing a message.
The works are a seamless part of the message. There is a specifically Catholic way
of understanding this. First, we address the reality in own hearts and turn to Jesus in a living relationship to find healing. Then we “do” the works of mercy and the “doing of them” gives witnesses to the reality and presence of a Divine power at work for healing and good. Finally, when God prompts a person to ask why we “do what we do,” we are ready with more than a humanitarian answer – we are ready with an answer that explicitly witnessed to Jesus.
The ministry of Social Justice consists of:
1) awakening our consciences as members of the Body of Christ to what is just,
2) setting us into action doing what is just and advocating for what works for justice,
3) training us how to give explicit witness to the presence and power of Jesus to those who ask or who otherwise are crying out to know our reason for hope.
As Catholics we have and continue to grow significantly in awakening our consciences by teaching and preaching the Justice called for by the word of God and taught by the Church. The Church and Christians throughout history have long been active, in a multitude of ways, in doing the works of mercy. But we remain tentative and often incapable of articulating a spoken witness to Jesus, and this significantly weakens the effectiveness of our Social Justice efforts. A person doing the works of mercy who can effectively articulate her or his witness to Christ will long be doing them, will be doing them with increasing fruitfulness and with an absence of bitterness or rancor toward the world. In this way, the peace of the Kingdom will unfold in a fallen world to the praise of God and for the hope of all.
Father James Chelich – April 9, 2005
Truth and Freedom Jesus said:
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Truth is the foundation of Freedom. The search to know the truth has always been liberating to the human spirit. Finding and living the truth has always brought freedom to individuals and societies. Pontius Pilot posed a question of universal concern when he asked Jesus:
What is truth? John 18:38
Jesus’ answer was straightforward:
I AM the way the truth and the life. John 14:6
In this answer the religious faith of Christians was born. In Jesus is not a truth but the Truth: the truth about God, the truth about human life – its dignity, its purpose and its destiny, the truth about our physical world and our connection to the things in it. As Christians we embrace and strive to live the Truth in Jesus.
This draws us to the Church, which is a community of shared faith in the Truth. For Catholics, the Church is an intentional creation. It is Jesus’ gift to his disciples and to all people who seek the Truth throughout all time and in all places. Jesus said to his disciples:
I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always: the Spirit of truth… The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything, and remind you of all that I told you… Being the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13
The Church’s first task is to preserve and foster the Truth in Jesus. It was Saint Paul who first called the Church…
The Pillar and Bulwark of Truth. (1 Timothy 3:14)
Truth, Freedom and Democracy
The “Truth” is the truth in Jesus Christ – the truth of who he is for us and all that he taught. This truth – the Truth – sets a man or woman free to live the full potential of his humanity while at the same time preserving the ability of everyone around him to do the same. The Truth brings a woman or man into right- and living relationship with her fellow human beings and her world. This is how we recognize it as the “Truth.”
Truth is the foundation of Freedom. Truth and the Freedom which it brings are the foundation of a just society and a society that wishes to be a healthy democracy. But democracy is not always the friend of the Truth. When the will of the majority attempts to establish “truths” to serve its will and purpose, democracy becomes the enemy of the Truth. Democracy is also not always the friend of freedom. When the majority ethnic group, economic interest, or power coalition acts to disenfranchise and marginalize a minority, democracy becomes the enemy of freedom. It is of its very essence that the Church must always be about the Truth. Because of this, the Church is often at odds with the society around it – even democratic ones.
Before all things else, it is a Faith Professed
Being a Catholic is fundamentally not about holding membership rights in an organization. Being Catholic is fundamentally about embracing a faith. It is about believing. When a person who had previously been a member of another Christian denomination becomes a Catholic, they make this declaration:
I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church
teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.
This “believing” makes a person a Catholic. This profession of faith doesn’t necessarily mean that you have it all figured out and grasp it completely. It does mean, however, that you trust what the Church teaches you is true – not an arbitrary or temporary truth, but the unchanging Truth. It also means that while you may sometimes have misgivings or go through a season of questioning (especially if at some point the Truth hits a contrary desire in your heart), you will none-the-less keep your allegiance to the truth the Church teaches as the Truth (albeit, a truth you are not fond of at the moment).
Being Catholic: It is a Way of Holiness
Being Catholic is also fundamentally a Way of Holiness. Jesus said:
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not put into practice what I tell you? Anyone who desires to come to me will hear my words and put them into practice.
You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
Along with believing the Truth that the Church professes, a personal commitment to strive to live the moral Truth the Church teaches makes a person a Catholic. Striving to do so is often a messy business for most if not all Catholics. The human heart, from one season to another, is often filled with contrary passions and ambitions. While a Catholic may fall into sin and even sometimes go through a season of moral lapse, he none-the-less remains a Catholic as long as he acknowledges in his heart and on his lips that the moral truth the Church teaches is the Truth of Jesus Christ – the Truth that sets him free.
The Church and Democracy
At any given time in the Church world-wide, there are Catholics who are going through a season of strong devotion in faith and fervor for moral purity. At the same time, others have become preoccupied with people and things that seem more exciting and meaningful, and are going through a season of indifference to the Truth. Still others, having experienced trauma, loss or scandal, are moving through a season of strong inner resistance to the Truth. There is place for all this in the Church. This is, however, the reason why the Church is not a democracy.
It bears repeating that democracy is not always a friend of the Truth. There is good reason to believe that even in the Church this might well prove to be the case. Given the opportunity to do so, individuals in the Church who are going through the personal seasons of temptation, doubt or frustration described above might find it very hard not to vote for a more convenient “truth” for their personal situation at the moment, or for a spiritual leader that might make a “compassionate accommodation” of the Truth for them – which, of course, would render “the Truth “ into “a truth” that can set no one free. Either the Truth stretches us, or we shrink it. The truth stretching us is Theology. We shrinking the Truth is anything but Theology.
Blest are you Simon, son of John…
…I for my part declare to you, you are Rock,
and on this rock I will build my Church,
and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.
I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven;
whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
To Peter and his successors Jesus gave the authority to “bind and loose” the household of God according to the Truth, to shepherd the Church, and to “strengthen his brothers” in the Truth (see Luke 22:24-32). The power Jesus gave to Peter and his successors is to set and keep the Church “in order” according to the Truth. This is the meaning of the power to “bind and loose.” Jesus did not give Peter and his successors the power to decide the Truth or accommodate the Truth to the times. Jesus Christ, and the truth in Him…
…is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
This constancy of faith and moral orientation make Christ and his Church a source of stability for individuals, families and peoples of every time and place. The Church is the soul of humanity and its voice of conscience. Humanity looks to the Church for this more than anything else, even more than it might want the Church’s approval of the current theological speculation or ethical deviation.
Because the Church is essentially about believing, professing, teaching and proclaiming the Truth in Jesus, when it comes to articulating the truth and selecting those who are charged to do so it sometimes does not appear to be as democratic as some might like. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Individuals are selected for office in the Church because they hold and have held to “the Truth in Jesus Christ.” Even in seasons of doubt, temptation and failure, they have not sought to alter the Truth that sets them free in favor of a “truth” more convenient to their personal agenda or the “spirit of the times.”
None of this it to say that authentic Catholic faith must always be a silent, unquestioning obedience. The Church is where committed Catholics come to grips with the Truth and its implications for their lives and their world. Authentic Catholic faith at times wrestles with and questions aspects of the Truth. In the wrestling and questioning we and those around us are able to identify what is really at work in us, among us and in the society around us: is it our own self-interest, an addiction to sin, a false placement of hope for salvation in someone or something other than Christ, or is there truly a justice that the Truth wants done? Though not always silent or unquestioning, authentic Catholic faith is obedient to “all that the Holy, Catholic Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” It does not “dissent” from the Truth the Church teaches, rather it is stretched by it and becomes…
…that new man created in God’s image, whose justice
and holiness are born of the truth. Ephesians 4:24
The Catholic Church in America
One sometimes hears it said among American Catholics: “the people are the church.” This has a pleasing, egalitarian ring to it. As American as this might sound, however, it simply is not what the Catholic Church understands itself to be.
First, and foremost, the Church is Jesus:
the Word who is God John 1:1,
the Word through whom all things came into being John 1:3,
the Word become flesh, making his dwelling among us John 1:14a,
an only Son coming from the Father, filled with grace and truth John 1:14c.
Before all else, before anyone else, even if no one accepts him or receives it, the Church is Jesus and the grace and truth in him (John 1:17). The Church is Jesus, the divine Word of God saying, Follow me! (Matthew 4:19 and 9) – even if no one follows.
Only then is the Church those who…
…deny their very self, take up their cross,
and follow in His steps Mark 8:34;
and those who are…
…begotten of water and the Spirit John 3:3-7;
…who feed on his flesh and drink his blood
and remain in him and he in them. John 6:53-58
Saint Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth:
You then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27.
Every disciple of Jesus is a member of his body, but the Scriptures make it clear that there is only one head of the body: Jesus!
It is he who is the head of the body, the church;
he who is the beginning,
the first-born of the dead,
so that primacy may be his in everything.
It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him.
The Scriptures also make it clear that the members of the body are to be transformed by the renewal of their mind (Romans 12:2a) . Only then can we be His witnesses (Acts 3:15). And herein lies the essence of being a Catholic: we are witnesses to the Truth of Who He is and all he taught, and the power of this Truth to set a person free.
The Catholic Church is fundamentally about being the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14) – even if less than a majority at the moment are in favor of the Truth, inside or outside the Church. American democracy and civil society is not necessarily nor always about the same thing. That is why the Church is usually in lively (and sometimes contentious) conversation with American civil society. This is no more or less the case in the United States than in any other country of the world. The Truth stretches everyone, collectively as well as individually, to become more than they have become comfortable with or concluded that they can be.
The American Catholic Church
The American Catholic Church is not “another Catholic Church.” It is the Catholic Church. It is composed of those who…
…believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes,
teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God,…
(The Rite of Reception into the Catholic Church)
…and who embrace and strive to live the Catholic Way of Holiness.
This is what makes it Catholic. This may not be the Faith of everyone in American society, nor is it everyone’s Way of Holiness. What it is, and what makes it powerful, is that it is a Faith and a Way of Holiness that sets a woman or man free to achieve the fullness of her human potential and places him in right- and life-giving relationship with his fellow human beings and his world. This is why Catholicism will endure and will always be of compelling interest in human society and powerfully attractive to individuals. At the same time it is a Faith and a Way of Holiness that strikes the conscience of individuals and society, and this is why it will be rejected by some individuals and opposed in some societies. Jesus told this to his disciples quite plainly:
The light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather
than light because their deeds were wicked.
Everyone who practices evil hate the light;
he does not come near it for fear his deeds will be exposed.
But he who acts in the truth comes into the light,
to make clear that his deeds are done in God.
If you find that the world hates you know that it has hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own;
the reason it hates you is that you do not belong to the world.
But I chose you out of the world.
I tell you this that in me you may find peace.
You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world!
Consciousness of this is a living reality for an American Catholic. Living the Truth has consequences, but the good attained, for oneself and for all, overwhelmingly surpasses the price paid.
American Catholicism retains a healthy “democratic instinct” for participatory process in its organization and collaboration in its ministries. It seeks to apply it where it is appropriate. This is a grace that brings vitality and a multitude of gifts to the life of the Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
Catholics are “different.” But that should not be the last word about us. The last word should be that we “made a difference” – through the Truth we believe and practice for the Good of all!
By Father James Chelich 1999
JUSTICE means “Right-relationship” or “Life-giving Relationship” JUSTICE applies in three directions: Right-relationship with God. Right-relationship with our fellow human beings. Right-relationship with the world around us. They are interconnected and inter-dependent. In order to gain an understanding of what God might be teaching us about Justice when we read or listen to the Word of God, we should constantly ask ourselves: What is God saying here about right-relationship… …with Himself? …with my spouse, my parents, my children, my friends, my neighbors, the people with whom I work, people I don’t like, the poor? …with the world and its creatures around me? 1. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war..” Isaiah 2:4 Right-relationship is impossible when we prepare ourselves to have our way at any cost! 2. “Let us throw off the works of darkness….Let us conduct ourselves properly, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy…” Romans 13:12-13 Promiscuity, lust, and jealous rivalry are not just private personal issues. They defeat right-relationship where it exists and prevent it from developing where it does not. 3. “Stay awake!…If the master of the house had known the hour of the night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into…You must be prepared.” Matthew 24:42-44 Right-relationship is not acquired nor is it sustained by taking it for granted. Life-giving Relationship is created and preserved by constant effort and attention. 4. The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them…There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain…” Isaiah 11:6,9 Right-relationship is established when we raise our children to return something for what they take. Life-giving relationship with the earth is preserved by taking what we need and what the land can bear. 5. “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another…Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you…” Romans 15:5,7 Life-giving Relationship with others is impossible in any situation in which we are so intent on having things our way that we refuse to listen. Right-relationship is defeated when anyone is excluded from a meaningful place in the conversation. 6. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!…Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Matthew 3:2,8 In Jesus, God has unleashed a power to defeat the reign of darkness and to establish Justice. But we have to be HUMBLE enough to be spoken to, to be shown what is right, to desire it, to ask for God’s strength and help, and to put it into practice. WHERE THE PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE ARE TO BE FOUND Out of love for us and for our world, God sets out the principles of Right-relationship for us in the Scriptures. These principles are expressed in the Commandments of the Law (Torah). They are brought to their fullness by Jesus and embodied in Jesus. HOW THE PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE CAN BE UNDERSTOOD The meaning of JUSTICE opens up for us when we ask the right questions of the Word of God — when we read a passage, pause, and then ask: What is God saying in this passage about right-relationship with God? What is God saying in this passage about right relationship with my spouse, my parents, my children, my friends, my neighbors, the people with whom I work, people I don’t like, the poor? What is God saying in this passage about right-relationship with the world around me, with its creatures, and the earth beneath my feet? WHAT JUSTICE REQUIRE OF A CHRISTIAN “Stay awake!…You must be prepared.” Matthew 24:42-44 In other words, be available! WANT to know! READ the Word. ASK the Word of God to show you. DESIRE the relationship being described. BE AVAILABLE to be moved by the Holy Spirit to speak or act! DO or say what you can, the best you can. LET GO! You are not the Savior. You are a witness, His witness! 1. John baptized you with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be my witnesses… Acts of the Apostles 1:4-5,8 2. We are his witnesses. Exalted at God’s right hand, (Jesus) first received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father, then poured this Spirit out on us. Acts of the Apostles 2:32-33 3. God is the one who firmly establishes us in Christ; it is He who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit, in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 4. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord. Luke 4:1-21
By Father James Chelich 1999
“Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, envy, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within…” Mark 7:21-23 Jesus teaches us that the origins of violence lie within us. The solution to … “Those who use the sword are sooner or later destroyed by it.” Matthew 56:52 Christians abhor violence in any form. Violence is seen as toxic to the human body, soul and spirit as well as to the human community. It is as toxic to those who are victims of it as well as to those who employ it. In approaching either the victims or the perpetrators of violence, or a situation of violence, Christians remain mindful of the two root issues at the core of violence: TRAUMA, the ways individuals have been hurt in the past and how that motivates violent reactions that attempt to compensate for these wounds. SIN, the hold of a radical self-centerdness upon our attitudes, words and actions. This is a wanting of what we want, when we want, the way we want, and the willingness manipulate what is good in evils ways to obtain it. A Christian remains mindful that these two root realities are at work in themselves as well as in the situation and persons they confront. A Christian will attempt to restrain violence inflicted upon the innocent in as non-violent manner as possible. They will, however, resolutely and confidently come to the aid of the victim. Should this require an act of force, a Christian will never take pride in or glorify the force used. A Christian will always grieve the necessity of using force, repent of having to set their hand to it, and seek spiritual cleansing and healing of God. Non-violent resistance to evil and unjust situations is clearly the highest and most perfect following of Jesus, a Christian’s Lord.