(Click here for Part I)
So, this is what the Church is and who we are as her members… in theory. But why doesn’t this description of the Catholic Church match what we actually see? Why don’t we seem like “fools in love?” Why aren’t we making “a scene?” Perhaps it is because we as a Church have lost sight of how the walk of a disciple begins and from where it finds its roots – encounter.
“God is not some topic to study, but a person to meet” (Ralph Martin, Called to Holiness, pg. 9.) This assertion is substantiated in crystal-clear fashion by simply reading the Bible, where one finds account of encounters with a living God. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paulhad a definite moment when the Lord “passed them by” (go here to see Dr. Mary Healy’s terrific insight on this phrase). It is after such an encounter that their lives changed into a holy recklessness for God.
Why would it be any different for us? Scripture is not a collection of nice stories, but Word how we should live Thus, taking Scripture at its word (pun intended), suggests to us the question: if we do not meet the Lord, how can we follow im? In order to follow anybody you have to meet them!
The Christian walk must be more than just encouraging one another with good ideas about ‘living better.’ It is about power. That dynamic and ever-new power of God changing our hearts and moving our lives from the inside out. If we have not been touched by the white-hot power of God, then how c the fires of our hearts burn with love for Him and His people? We don’t need cheerleading, we need the very life of God within us.
This ‘encounter’ element is the foundational line to a drumbeat Pope Francis has been throughout, and before. Check out his response to this first question (as well as the whole interview):
Notice how then-Fr. Bergolio mention this ‘encounter’ as a work of the Spirit. It is a curious thing that the Apostles themselves, after Jesus had ascended, had no idea how to be disciples. After spending full years with Jesus Himself (imagine that…) they still hid in a room, shaking in the boots, having no idea what direction to go and how to live out all He had taught them. Indeed Jesus anticipated this because he told them to wait there until they received something. Then, that something happened.
somethingPentecost. They received the Person whom Jesus died and rose to give us. It was an encounter with the Spirit which “transformed them into courageous witnesses to Christ” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, #87) that catapulted out of their concealed sanctuary. It was this baptism in the Holy freed men and women to be missionary disciples.
Once again, how can it be any different for us? If we are in desperate need of an encounter with God, of a personal relationship with Our Savior, how can we not need the reality which makes that relationship “come alive” – our own personal Pentecost? f you listen to the popes over the lat 50 years, if would seem individually and as a Church:
“More than once we have asked ourselves what the greatest needs of the Church are… what is the primary and ultimate need of our beloved and holy Church? We must say it with holy fear because, as you know, this concerns the mystery of the Church, her life: this need is the Spirit… the Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her heart, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, Nov. 29 1972)
How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #261)
Once again, it becomes smolderingly clear that the life of a missionary disciple is not about a worldview, principles or intellectual assent so much as it is a life lived, literally, “in Christ” through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, in conclusion, if this is what the Church is, then this is what we seek to be in i.d.916 – a community of missionary disciples. A body of men and women who have encountered the Lord and thereby “walk by the Spirit,” seeking to radically follow Him on His mission to all peoples.
O Lord, may it be so!