Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We’re not particularly good with nuanced approaches: for example, knowing what to do with someone who’s in partial communion with the Church. We tend to have an “all or none” approach. With the exception of formal programs like RCIA (which are good!), most Catholics don’t know what to do with them on an individual basis. What would it look like if we could bring a more nuanced approach?
Lest you misunderstand me, I don’t mean offering Communion to those who aren’t in full communion. That would be a betrayal of Church teaching going back to the time of St. Justin the Martyr (100-165 A.D.), who said of the Eucharist: “No one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”
The Eucharist is the greatest treasure the Church has to offer! But it’s not the only treasure the Church has to offer. When Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners, He wasn’t telling them that everything was OK, that they were already in full communion with the Kingdom of God. He dined with them to invite them more deeply into the mystery of His life, to draw them closer toward the point where they would be ready for a full communion with Him.
I wonder if we could get better at going out and drawing in. I think we need to get better at that! And I think that’s one key to understanding what Pope Francis means when he says there’s room for everyone in the Church.
We hear from Zechariah, Nehemiah and Baruch this week, a powerful trio of prophets and leaders from the Exilic and post-Exilic times of Israel’s history. One common theme is how things had fallen apart and needed to be rebuilt.
Ancient Judah had accumulated a kind of spiritual momentum — and in the wrong direction! Both religiously and culturally, they had not only ceased to observe the covenant, they had ceased to care whether they were observing it. Their actions and inactions had dire consequences for the nation!
But, lest we point fingers, I think we might analyze our culture similarly. We, as a nation, have long embraced abortion. Is it any wonder that our children suffer more and more from various cultural maladies? There are consequences to our actions, and those consequences build over time for our nation.
We have also, more and more deeply, come to an idolatry of sports. (Think about what occupies our time and energy!) Is it any wonder that, while our sports teams make more and more money, our cities have become increasingly riddled with social maladies? There are consequences to where we focus — and fail to focus — our energy, and those consequences build over time for our nation.
We could learn valuable lessons from the prophets and leaders of the Exilic and post-Exilic community for our own time: first, about how our actions and focus have consequences for our nation; and second, about how we might reshape fidelity to our covenant with God and each other.