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May 2020 Posts

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Will the church be different after a time of global crisis?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 13, May 2020 Categories: Liturgy,Prayer and Spirituality
Post-crisis church
The church has been growing, evolving, responding to each generation it embraces.

It better be! The church is a living organism, the Body of Christ, composed of you and me and multitudes of others. Some have “gone before us, marked with the sign of faith,” and some have yet to be born. Collectively, the church is 2,000 years old and counting. In all that time, the church has been growing, evolving, responding to each generation it embraces. So in that sense, we’re not your grandmother’s church, nor simply the church of Aquinas or Augustine, Paul or Mary Magdalene. At the same time, we’re absolutely “one faith, one Lord, one baptism” with all of the above. So yes: when you get back inside your local parish for liturgy again, the church will have been affected by what we’ve cumulatively experienced and bring with us into that space once more.

Religious leaders are considering possible implications of the COVID-19 era and what it might mean for the church going forward. Here’s a short list of potential ways the church may evolve, suggested by a nationally known liturgist:

* The laity may rely less on Father to make church happen for the rest of us. Father doesn’t “do the holy stuff for us.” We all do it, together. When assembling is impossible, we’ve practiced being church in the physical absence of our pastors.

* Let’s embrace our baptismal priesthood. Sacramentally speaking, we the baptized die to ourselves, to live for Christ. This makes us Christ’s ambassadors wherever we are, just as the priest represents Christ in the assembly.

Worship is more than going to Mass. Believers worship in many settings and formats. Worship is about lifting ourselves, mind and heart and soul, to God. It involves prayer, word, and ritual. Anyone with a Bible, candle, rosary, and a need in their heart can worship. In an emergency, the needy heart is enough!

We don’t need drive-thru Communion and Confession. Such activities actually diminish the richness of the sacraments. When Eucharist isn’t available, share an agape (love) meal. No blessed water? Bless each other. No confession? Tell your failings to one you’ve wronged and ask forgiveness. 

A word to priests: feed your people. Your leadership equips the community to be the church, not simply to come to church. Pastoring isn’t about making parishioners dependent on you; it should liberate them for service. When you’re not physically able to lead the assembly, continue to do what you uniquely do by your call: sanctify the world by your prayers, and fulfill your mission to preach and teach by whatever means available. 

Scripture: Exodus 19:5-6; Mark 11:22-25; John 17:1-26; Romans 12:4-7; 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 10:11-18; James 5:13-18; 1 Peter 2:4-9; 5:1-6 

Books: A Prophetic, Public Church: Witness to Hope Amid the Global Crises of the Twenty-First Century, by Mary Doak (Liturgical Press, 2020); True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Consilium, by Massimo Faggioloi (Liturgical Press, 2012)

Why would a global pandemic happen? Is God doing this?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 13, May 2020 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Scripture
COVID mask
The crucifixion testifies that God isn’t “doing this”: God is suffering this with us.

This question was raised, sheepishly, by a friend who considers herself a progressive-thinking Catholic. She doesn’t imagine God as a big punishing dude on a throne, exacting vengeance for humanity’s crimes—which are considerable, when you think about it. She’s been thinking about it: counting ways that maybe we “deserve” a global reckoning. We destroy rainforests, fill oceans with floating continents of plastic, poison the soil, make the air unbreathable, contaminate freshwater with hazardous waste. We torture Creation to make a buck, while the gap between rich and poor widens. Honestly: why wouldn’t God “do this”?

It’s not a stupid question. It’s an ancient biblical question: is human suffering a measure of divine wrath? Is God “pleased to crush us with infirmity,” to restore balance to a celestial justice we’ve disregarded?

The biblical character of God does seem to exact justice by means of catastrophe: The expulsion of humanity from Eden. The great flood in Noah’s time. The ten plagues visited on Egypt. Israel’s trials in the desert due to relentless ingratitude. Babylonian exile. Sequential occupations by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. The death of Jesus “for the sins of the world” can be viewed as ringing evidence that God expects satisfaction for offenses against divine justice. From this perspective, human suffering is the currency in which God is to be paid.

Some routinely see God’s wrath expressed in famine, war, and disease, as when half of Europe’s population died in the Black Death, or the 1918-1920 Spanish flu infected one in three people worldwide. AIDS has claimed 35 million lives and counting, causing some to point to divine judgment. Yet at least once a century, flu season results in a million deaths. The odds of getting cancer across a lifetime are roughly one in two for men, one in three for women.

The biblical story of Job objects to drawing clean lines between human guilt and periods of devastation. Job is just; why would God punish him? The book argues that the why of suffering is a mystery best left to God. The more meaning-laden question may be: when suffering comes, what will we make of it? Jesus refused to blame a blind man or his parents for this misfortune. The crucifixion testifies that God isn’t “doing this”: God is suffering this with us. The cross invites us to take all our pain and to consecrate it to God’s benevolent purposes. God redeems human misery and, indeed, saves the world. That’s a promise.

Scriptures: Genesis 3:1-24; 6:5-13; Exodus 7:14-11:10; Deuteronomy 11:26-32; Jeremiah 15:1-4; Isaiah 53:4-12; Book of Job; John 1:1-14; 9:1-40

Books: Job - Study Set, by Kathleen O’Connor, et.al. (Liturgical Press, 2012); Through the Dark Field: The Incarnation Through an Aesthetics of Vulnerability, by Susie Paulik Babka (Liturgical Press, 2017)

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