Summary: The Church, as the Council Fathers say, is both one and diverse. Our citizenship is not here.
Monday of 31st Week in Course
5 Nov 2012
If ever there were a set of Scriptures suited to the eve of the most contentious, vicious political contest in my lifetime, these are they. The one place where we must be one in mind and heart is in the family, and I mean the family of God. Putting aside all malice and contention, each thinking of the other as better than himself, and inviting all to the banquet–rich, poor, young, old, liberal and conservative, saint and sinner. The Church, as James Joyce said in Finnegan’s Wake, is “here comes everybody.”
The call to come to the banquet is a call to everyone. It is a summons to receive, but even more an invitation, even a command, to give. The Council Fathers wrote: It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills,(114) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit".(115) These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.
Charisms, or gifts, are given to every Christian. These gifts are for one purpose–the growth and upbuilding of the Church as the sacrament of Christ’s presence. At our baptism, we are anointed as Christ was at His Baptism. As He was made prophet, priest and leader for God’s people, so we also share in that same set of gifts.
The Fathers go on: All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. (117) It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,(118) that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.
So there are many nations, but only one Church. There is diversity in this one Church. We are blessed in this Archdiocese to have, for instance, a Maronite rite parish. There are Byzantines, Melkites, and several other rites even in this country. We have diversity of music, of preaching styles, and of ministries to the disabled and underprivileged. But there must be unity beyond everything. There is one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism–that means one sacramental system. We must profess the same creed and proclaim the same way of life and morality.
Thus, whether we are heralded or persecuted by the culture and government, we must remain faithful to that call to be one Church. Let’s pray for our country, but remember that our citizenship is not here, and our ultimate end is in the embrace of the Trinity. We pray for that end for ourselves and all humanity.