AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY AS COMMUNIO (Love in Action)
All major religions in our time are under constant scrutiny, and often for very good reasons. Regardless of the incredible credit given to the achievements of religion, these seem to be fading into the background because of the critique of religion. People are becoming free to think for themselves and ask the serious questions. There is no longer the notion that religion speaks with authority, and people follow. So much wrong has been done in the name of religion that it appears to be the wise move to rather leave it aside. In other words, in the name of tolerance, let us exclude the risks religion poses to peace. The perception is that world religions and, within them, different interpretations of themselves, have been and remain areas of conflict rather than of cohesion. Where they do exist peacefully, is it their own merit or the merit of a society which constitutionally regulates freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and respect for human life and dignity? The achievements of religion are unquestionable, but the prevailing sentiment is building up that they belong to the archives and museum or may be dusted off for their rituals for special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Yes, they are tolerated and even supported as kind of Super NGO’ s offering humanitarian services to society. There is horrific abuse of religion and the word “church” in our time for money, prestige and power, which makes matters only worse. All of this adds to the cynical view that religion has become more part of the problem than the solution to social and personal challenges.
Religion with its moral teachings appears to be a source of interference with personal freedom rather than a companion of life. In other words, “Don’t come and tell us what to do”. In fact, “Leave me, my body, my moral decisions, my relationships, my marriage, my children, my political and social views, my profession, my choice of political aims, my decision facing terminal sickness of relatives, my choice of actions, etc”. Once we face this attitude, we realise that there has been a considerable shift from the trust religion in our part of the world (Western) once enjoyed. Nowadays, more often than not, religion has to justify its presence as a positive partner in life. Frequently the sceptical view is that religion is just “ideology”. It is exclusive and drives its own agenda to achieve its own benefits. Christians often find themselves on the defence and not equipped to answer the questions. In their own environment, be that the immediate family or circle of friends or profession, they so easily become ignored for their faith, marginalised by family and a source of discomfit. Is it fair to say that religion, or more precisely Christianity, is becoming more and more a niche community with a closet mentality?
What do we say as Christian Catholics? Well, the time is over of “Roma locuta, causa finita.” (Roma has spoken. The matter is closed.”) And that was the end of the story! We see in the reactions to Pope Francis that the authority of the papacy is no longer just a matter of acceptance. Definitely not, if we follow dissenting voices to his views,
some even calling for his resignation. Firstly, we must welcome independent thinking in the Church. There is scope for democratic practice and participation, and the desire for democracy is part of human nature. No one wants to be dictated to all the time, everyone has a right to be heard. However, this then means that there must be a shift in the way we are and do Church.
Far from changing the hierarchical structure, Church must move over to its own understanding of also being Communio (the people of God). This is based on the dignity we have in one baptism which constitutes Church as the presence of Christ in the world. The shift is to a listening Church, which upholds the fact that the Holy Spirit is alive in and speaking through every member. Transparent dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable, is a right and must be demanded. The right to know, to be heard, to be part of the decision-making and part of the executions of decisions means the obligation to be informed and to be visibly active. The ethical expression is that we are a universal fraternal community, in which the double commandment of love of God and neighbour inseparably takes centre stage. And as far as this commandment is concerned, there can be no compromise or double standards with regards to race, social background and cultural differences. In essence, this is the only way to make our faith practice authentic and believable. For us as Catholic Christians, it is the way to make it legitimate to speak about God and that He is relevant to our time and lives. In Jesus Christ we have the way, truth and the life for this kind of life. He combined love of God and love of neighbour by becoming to each in everyone the caregiver. Therein he fulfilled his mission as the Christ, the Messiah, who brought salvation to people by the way he cared – even beyond the grave. And so, Christianity becomes a religion of hope and joy. Caregiving makes the world human, overcomes hatred, and keeps alive the web of love. God is love – and it can be seen: “This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched – we speak of the word of life.” (1 John 1: 1) From there follows, “We, for our part, love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4: 19) The consequence is very striking: “The commandment we have from him is this: whoever loves God must also love his brother (sister).
” (1 John 4: 21)
The Church as Communio is the personal, participate and interacting people of God connecting the caregiving love of God in Christ through the Holy Spirt to our world as source of freedom, joy and eternal life. This is true Love in Action that counts.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
June 24, 2020