Perseverance in the faith should be a major concern for every Christian: our own perseverance and that of our children, grandchildren, and even our country. Although no society has ever been truly “Christian,” we have seen countries which were once Christian or even Catholic in population and profession become predominantly atheistic or “unchurched.” God will not let the Church die throughout the world, but it could happen here! How?
We can blame others for what “turns people off” in the Church. But we must always look first to ourselves. The stern warnings to the “angels” of the seven local churches in Revelation, chapter two, could have been addressed to their bishops or pastors or to the local church as a whole, depending on how we interpret “angels.” But the bottom line is that we are all “stewards” of Christ’s kingship, and each one of us is responsible for being and doing what is necessary for his presence in the Church to be visible and attractive.
Paul was insistent that Timothy and Titus, presumably bishops he appointed, should live exemplary lives. 1Timothy 4:12-16 suggests people were “looking down on” Timothy because of his youth. If that hadn’t served, it is safe to bet they would have found another excuse. No one ever really leaves the Church because of what the clergy and bishops do. Our faith is not in the clergy, but in Jesus Christ; and if we give it up, it is Jesus we are giving up on, not on his instruments. If we want to persevere in the faith, we cannot make it depend on what the bishops are, good or bad. Or on the clergy. Or our parents and teachers. We need to seek intimate relationship with Jesus. Read Scripture. Get in touch with the “gift of the Spirit” by a prophetic lifestyle. Minister to others with Christ’s love until we recognize it in ourselves. Trust in God’s power to establish the Kingdom and work for it with hope. Live out our Baptism as Christians, disciples, prophets, priests, and stewards of his kingship. Then we will persevere.
Luke 7:36-50 teaches us not to block anyone’s access to Christ. Jesus was “at table” in a Pharisee’s house, as he is with us during Mass. A woman “known in the town to be a sinner”— pretty bad, then, and pretty notorious—came in. Good so far: we let everybody in for Mass. But then she touched Jesus, washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, “kissing them and perfuming them with oil.” That was like going up for Communion! We may have been as shocked by that as the Pharisee.
We have been trained through centuries of pastoral practice to see Communion as an official judgment by the pastor that one is in “good standing” in the Church—meaning one does not even appear to be in “mortal sin” as people were taught simplistically to perceive it. This is wrong. Communion is the food of sinners, and Jesus showed it by eating with the sinners. He still does.
In the Gospel, who was more ready for Communion? The sinful woman, or the Pharisee?
Initiative: Have enough love to recognize love. Don’t get in love’s way.