I wrote the title before I wrote the piece, and didn’t know quite what it meant except that there’s a tremendous amount of discussion online and at committees and with speakers and religious directors, laity, Catholic media and people who know such things about the reality of our church as a religious organization, and the absence of people from the pews. We have been scattered, by sin, by scandal, by Covid, by fealty to whatever part of Catholic teaching one understands and is not troubled by. We have cast lots for His garment, claiming each to have the whole when we have a fragment.
Fortunately for all of us, God can work through the fragment. God’s kind that way. The Eucharist is all of Christ, and yet, we receive all of God in this fragment. Likewise, God can work through us, fragmented creatures that we are. Fragmented by sin, both ours and others, both now and today, and from the beginning of creation, God longs to heal us, to make each of us a seamless garment. God longs to heal all the fragments, each of our fragments, but only if we allow.
This past year, we’ve had a retreat of sorts…even if we haven’t quite grasped the lessons of it. We only see the effects. We’ve had a year away from the ordinary time of everything. We’ve had a year of discovering, do we will to be present to God. When everything else is taken away, do we still run to the tomb? Do we still seek Him in all things, even suffering? Even in the presence of death? Do we understand that we’re not promised a life without suffering, but a God who suffers with us, and can if we allow it, bring grace even to this? Do we teach it? We haven’t. because that sounds unpleasant. After all, who wants to join a Church that says, “Hey, come over here…our Church says come and take up your cross. We have redemptive suffering!”
But there’s coffee and donuts afterwards…or there was before covid.
It’s not a great selling point, but it is a reality. It’s stiff tonic to the world that includes the virtual where one can morph into anything for any reason, and the physical world, that is becoming less tolerant of not seeking to be formless.
Do we offer the fragments of our lives to Christ like two loaves and five fish? (You know what happens when we do).
The creation of the holes in our hearts and in the pews came from silence, from the presumption that habit, repetition, service and presence would substitute for Christ. It’s not that anyone intended that people would leave, it’s that sin, distraction, our own faith lives, mostly sin, eroded the witness that has always been the essence of why people came into the Church in the first place. “Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe.” The saints who live the Gospel, allow a whole new generation of people and beyond, to see and thus believe, because the saints through their lives, allow Christ to be revealed to the world. Saints cooperate with God’s proposal, allowing the veil to be removed and grace to flood the world. Saint Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give to you.” and the man stood up and walked. The Church is to be a Hospital for sinners, but also the potter’s wheel, by which God creates saints. We have been unwilling uncooperative clay unwilling to be molded, shaped or fired. We haven’t been giving what we have…so people are not getting up and walking…which means, we haven’t allowed ourselves to be filled with Christ. The pews are emptying and there are many more that need to be healed.
Sin always breaks with all of creation…it does not want there to be friendship with the Divine. It does not want beauty to be recognized as a reality, or truth. Sin denies everything about love, and reduces everything to nothing. It denies we are created in His image. It does not want us pronounced by our mere existence to be very good. It does not want our existence celebrated or sacrificed for…it denies the necessary reality of sacrifice in life that love must be. It does not want there to be darkness and light, or Heavens that are filled with His beauty. It denies truth, all truth because it rejects Christ who is the Truth. Sin at its essence, denies the Creator, in favor of the created as the arbiter of all things. Sin is choosing to be less than and believing it equal to or greater.
We’ve learned in real life, both in the Church, and in the world, how well that works out and yet, we perpetually keep forgetting. We reduce the gift of creation to components only, that can be remade any which way we choose. We reduce ourselves to a tradition and a building if we fail to recognize, all of our faith is to be a celebration of God’s infinite wholeness even with the wounds, that God can work with and through us, the fragments. That’s our evangelization method, we have the Christ, crucified for us, and risen. We have within the tabernacle, the source of all healing, all joy, all infinite happiness and a peace we’ve never fully known.
Or, we can opt for the world’s promise of empty distraction, meaningless suffering with eventual death and being forgotten ash. Suddenly, saying that we have redemptive suffering sounds a whole lot better. Maybe we should make it our tag line. I’ll bring it up at the next committee meeting on evangelization.
Pray when we are reduced by the world, that all that is left is Christ. Pray also that when all are fed, that we are gathered up in the baskets and given to those who hunger. Pray to be a fragment through which Christ can be revealed. The goal and essence of our faith, of our Church, is to go out and help gather all of the Body of Christ. Gather all the fragments.*
P.S. I wrote this and let it sit, because I wasn’t quite sure if I should post it. Then I heard today’s gospel readings. https://bible.usccb.org/daily-bible-reading