We had waited with hope that our good Holy Father would have seen his way to sending us a humble shepherd like himself. Who we received is a child beloved of God as we are, born into a church of Vatican II, one whom we are asked to love and respect, a man-manager ( and I use that sexist term advisedly) who exercises power in a way which is uncomfortable for many, albeit according to his own lights. We are called to welcome him into our communities, no matter what we think of his intentions. Only in dialogue can we move forward in the way of Christ.
There is much written about the church of the Future. What we have is the church of the Now, and it is in living out our potential, ‘life in its fullness’, in the church of the Now that we will find the church of the Future.
We cannot expect to build on present foundations. They will not hold us up, unsteady as they are. We might be advised to go back through history and note the foundations which have been found staunch, and to which the church in all its story and catastrophe has ever returned; foundations such as the person of Christ, the mystery of God, our relationship with the Trinity, our stories, and ‘the love these Christians have for each other.’
What we must not do is rearrange the deck chairs. In the axe action espoused of our leaders, several things are evident: power and pragmatism reign: the nuances and needs of human beings on the faith journey are unheeded; inspirational faithfulness to the Faith comes second to structural plan. In cutting back in the heartless and headless way we have recently seen, these so called leaders have given up any right to authority in the Church’s name.
Thus we are (per)missioned to find our own ways to do church, to meet in each others’ houses; to share food together; to break the Word in a new way; to access Communion anew; to find different ways to encounter God and Christian community. Many of us are already doing that, and being grateful that we have alternative ways of being church which are life-giving, rather than life draining. Even in the best of parishes, we have taken on the model of our leaders. This is basic organisational theory. We are not exempt from that. Unless we take a radical turn, and go deep into the pain and the roots of the pain we are suffering currently, there is no way forward. We have to stay for a time in this desert and be stripped of everything which is not necessary, so that we can ultimately encounter the God of Mystery who alone can be with us in that place, and who can alone heal us, and lead us out of it in God’s time into the church of the Future. Which will be the church of the Now.
Pray God we will have the humility and endurance to be there, by firstly being fully here.