God our Father,
From living stones, your chosen people,
You have built an eternal temple to your glory.
Increase the spiritual gifts you have given to your Church,
So that your faithful people may continue to grow
Into the new and eternal Jerusalem.
You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.
Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.
(1 Cor 3:9-11,16-17)
As I looked at the readings for this week, I was led in a variety of directions. Rather than trying to make them fit neatly together, I offer a little mosaic of random thoughts. Hopefully something will grab you!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been leading a course called Know Your Faith in one of our deaneries. On the way to the parish venue, I pass through a former mining village with a rather dark, bleak looking church building. A notice board outside the building has several peeling signs outside asking “Is this it?” I don’t know if it refers to the church, the village or life in general. But it is a striking image. Every week when I pass, I wonder what the people who pass make of the sign and also what it says about the Christian community that gathers there. Is it a question people ask on arrival or exit?
A course participant a few years back asked those gathered “If our parish closed down tomorrow and nobody went there again, would anybody else notice? Would they miss us? Would it make a difference?”
The images in the readings this week also offer very striking images of the Church. Ezekiel talks to us about the water flowing from the sanctuary, the water which brings life wherever it flows. Bearing new fruit that never withers and never fails. Is that an image which captures the spirit of our Catholic community in whichever parish we find ourselves? Do we bring life to all we meet and all we touch?
If you think about your parish community, which image would capture its spirit?
What image of Church runs through the catechesis you offer? Is it true to life?
Would anyone outside the community notice if nobody gathered there again?
The second reading is again quite striking – certainly for our ministry of catechesis. We are building on foundations already laid. It is a good reminder that when we meet people, they are already part of God’s building and we aren’t starting from scratch. Something brought them here. Just as Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the foundation, the GDC reminds us that the purpose of catechesis is communion and intimacy with Christ. Our ministry is to nurture that communion and intimacy. But we do need to proceed carefully – our role is not to tell people who Christ is but to create the space and opportunity for people to encounter Christ. And that includes us. The problem is, when it comes to Jesus the Christ, we all have our own experience, our own relationship. We need to be careful that we don’t impose or overlay our experience of Christ on someone else. Communion and intimacy grow more through prayer, liturgical experience, and encountering Christ in scripture. Creating these opportunities is skilful, it demands that we must be vulnerable and intimate with each other if we are to be intimate with Christ. We also have to be prepared to encounter Christ anew and for our intimacy with Christ to deepen and be changed. Talking about Christ or what the catechism says is much easier.
Professor David F Ford n his book Self and Salvation talks about the ‘vague face of Christ’. I offer the quotation below. Its hard reading, but well worth the effort
“The most obvious problem regarding the face of Jesus is its apparent vagueness. Nobody can see this face. We do not even have an artistic or photographic evidence of it. So people might imagine any sort of face and project whatever they like onto it.
But the fact that we don know what Jesus looks like might be helpful to us:
“…the undetermination of (Jesus) face is intrinsically connected to both the mystery of God and relationship to every other face. It is the openness of the hospitable face, the good undetermination of not being self-contained. This face is alive with the life and glory of God, so its openness has all the capacity for innovation and surprise which belong to God. It is so oriented to others that knowing and loving this face means being called to know and love them. Its self-effacement constantly urges those who look to it that they should route their seeking the face of Christ through other people. This is the long detour of recognising Christ in others, not one of whom is irrelevant to knowing and loving him…”
(Adapted from David F Ford, Self and Salvation, CUP 1999:172-3).