Each of us is on our own spiritual journey, despite the promptings of the institutional Church; responsible for our own seeking a way down the path, with our own compass, We are always seeking new ways to bring sense to being “here”, to experience the transcendent and the Divine presence in life around us. But setting out on your own is a spiritually lonely journey. The spiritual path was meant for partners. Jesus walked with others. He joined seekers on the road to Emmaus, explained the workings of the Kingdom, then sat and broke bread. Sharing a meal brings us together, leads us to engage, to be open. Being together on that spiritual path, sharing our stories on the road, can be “Church”.
There is a role for “Church” as a body that leads us to share, to the way of belief and worship, and becomes a model of justice, but this doesn’t come without much struggle, and frequent dark nights of institutional reflection. The clergy centric Church, ever more conservative, is fighting to make a comeback and once again be the teacher of dogma and to restore the esteem lost in so many years of scandal. And despite what some may think or want, we are not destined to replay pre-Vatican II, where the pews are filled with the pious fingering their beads depending on Mother Church to feed her people. We are older now, we’ve grown up, and we can feed ourselves.
Remembering that we are Church can be a difficult thing, especially when we look to the institution for sacramental ministry, which increasingly our ministers feel they are allowed to withhold from those who dissent. This doesn’t excuse the Church, but should only call it to greater fidelity to the Gospel Way.
But I am increasingly drawn in my spiritual thinking to our God as a God of the present, the God of now!
“Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation”. (2 Cor. 6:2)
Not 100 years from now when women greet us as Celebrants from the altar, when family planning or how to vote isn’t the topic of Sunday worship, or when gay life is finally no longer looked upon as “disordered”….not only disordered, but “intrinsically disordered” (meaning the “essential nature” of a person is out of whack), or when “religious freedom” is truly a liberating idea, not a cover for political agendas. Now!
“Now is the time when you are perfectly transformed in Christ. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday, not this morning, not at three o’clock. But right now!”
Kevin Hunt Sensei, OCSO
I think it can be good to be angry, to dissent, to be an activist. But you need prayer and a connection to Spirit to hold it all together. This is what drove Martin Luther King, and Daniel Berrigan to actively confront an unjust war. Fr. Berrigan (who is 91 now!) was very clear that he could not engage in the struggle without a source of prayer and the Eucharist as his base. He saw that as his starting point.
The Church is our source of sustenance. A place to refresh and hear each other, and God, but it is also there, in its truest form, to challenge. The challenge is to be here now, to walk the path of the righteous, and seek justice in all ways. Our struggle, it seems, is to either maintain allegiance to the body of the Church, or to find our own path, developing a larger allegiance to the body of Christ. The institutional struggle will be whether to open the windows to the fresh air of dialogue, encouraging the spiritual journey with those alienated and disillusioned, or to maintain the retrograde, exclusionary approach of those who believe that a smaller Church, made up of “true believers” who tow the dogmatic line, is the way forward.
Let us never forget that the Table is welcoming, We break bread as a community, we disagree as friends, and we hold each other close like family. The journey is for us all, the struggle is for us all. The road can be muddy sometimes, but it leads in one direction.
“Walk as tall as the trees…As strong as the Mountains. Be as gentle as the Spring Winds and the Great Spirit will be with you always.”. Black Elk, Indian Chief