Faced with the crisis in the Catholic Church at this time, I’ve been meditating further on this blog post earlier in the week which concluded with a few thoughts on the mystery of Our Lord’s parable of the wheat and the weeds growing together. This parable is reinforced by the parable of the sheep and the goats in the same flock.
These stories highlight the absolutely clear minded priorities of Jesus. He knew exactly what he was about and was not dissuaded or turned away from his mission by some lesser good. There were four aspects to Jesus’ mission on earth:
- He Taught the Truth
- He Conquered Evil
- He Forgave Sin
- He Healed the Sick
These four actions were interdependent and united. Because he taught the truth he delivered from evil, healed the sick and forgave sins. Because he forgave sins he healed and delivered and showed the truth. Because he delivered from evil he also healed the sick and forgave and showed the truth. He did these four things because they were an outworking of his divine person.
However, there were other good things he might have done which he did not do. He did not join the Zealots to bring justice and drive out the Romans. He did not form a political party of an activist group to rid the Jewish authorities of corruption in Jerusalem. He did not join the Essenes and start a charismatic, monastic spiritual movement. He did not start a charity to feed the hungry and fight for political and economic justice. He did not start a school to promote a new ideology, establish a publishing house to promote a set of ideas or set up a media empire to spread a specialized message.
He kept his eye on the ball and kept his eye on the enemy. He knew completely what he was about, and the four things he did can all be summed up by understanding that he was here to do battle with Satan and to re-claim this fallen planet for the Father who created it. He was here to seek and to save that which was lost.
Now here’s where the rubber meets the road: If the church is the Body of Christ, then the church does today what Jesus did when he was here. It follows that the church should not do today what Jesus did not do when he was here. What is the great confusion in the church today? It is the fact that large number of Christ’s followers have simply forgotten what the church is here for. They have forgotten the sole mission of the church is the proclamation of the gospel, the healing of souls, the forgiveness of sin and the defeat of the devil.
Instead, we have plunged into a host of other good and worthy works. We have invested our time and treasure in a whole slew of wonderful enterprises which are not really the sole mission of the church. This accounts for the confusion, bewilderment, theological drift, heterodoxy, decline in church going and the general malaise in our church.
The other thing Jesus did not do (and this will hurt some people to hear it)…he did not cleanse the flock. He did not weed the garden. He did not purify the tribe. The weeds and the wheat grew together. The sheep and the goats were in the same pasture.
The only thing he did that came close to this was to cleanse the temple, and that was a prophetic act–not a political one. He wasn’t cleansing the temple imagining that it would do much good. He knew they would set up the tables again as soon as he was gone–but this time with better security. The cleansing of the temple–like the procession into Jerusalem was not political it was prophetic. Both were actions that pre-figured the second coming and the final judgement.
This, therefore is the mission of the church, and as a priest, I am reminded of my personal priorities. This is my mission – to do these four things in the power of Christ the Lord. In more diffused ways, according to each person’s charism and calling these four things are also the mission of all the baptized.
If we remember this, we will be unified. Our goals will be clear. Our theology will be orthodox. Our pastoral care will be properly prioritized towards the salvation of souls (as opposed to simply being nice) and the church will be a clean, mean, fighting machine.
Read the gospels again–I dare you. You will find a Jesus Christ who cuts through the foolishness of this world like a hot knife through butter. He cuts through the lies, the deception, the ego, the pride the manipulations and machinations of the politicians and all the petty plans of this world.
He knows what he is about, and ultimately he knows how most powerfully he will do these four things.
He will preach the truth from the pulpit of the cross. He will forgive sins from the confessional of the cross. He will heal the sick from this healing hands nailed to the cross. He will overcome evil from the battleground of the cross.
That is his destiny and he sets his jaw and sets his eyes on that final chapter of the story with a steely determination that is overwhelming in its beauty, heartbreaking in its humility and thunderous in its power.