A CHURCH GATHERED TOGETHER IN JESUS’ NAME
When one lives far from religion or has been deceived by the behavior of Christians, it’s easy for the Church to be presented only as a grand organization. A kind of «multinational» busy about defending and drawing forward its own interests. These people generally know the Church only from the outside. They talk about the Vatican, criticize the interventions of the hierarchy, get mad before certain acts of the Pope. The Church for them is an out-of-touch institution from which they live far away.
This isn’t the experience of those who feel that they are members of a believing community. For these, the concrete face of the Church is almost always their own parish. That group of personal friends who gather together each Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. That place of encounter where they celebrate the faith and pray together near to God. That community where they baptize their children or say goodbye to their loved ones until the final encounter in another life.
For one who lives in the Church seeking in her the community of Jesus, the Church is almost always a source of joy and a motive of suffering. On the one hand, the Church is a stimulus and joy; we can experience within her the memory of Jesus, listen to his message, track his spirit, nourish our faith on the living God. On the other hand, the Church causes suffering, because we observe within her inconsistencies and routine; frequently the distance of what is preached and what is lived out is way too big; there’s a lack of gospel vitality; in many instances Jesus’ style is getting lost.
This is the Church’s greatest tragedy. Jesus is no longer loved or venerated as he was in the first communities. His originality isn’t known or understood. All too many won’t get to suspect in the least the saving experience that those first ones lived when they encountered him. We have made a Church where more than a few Christians imagine that by accepting some doctrines and fulfilling some religious practices, they are following Christ as did the first disciples.
And yet the essential nucleus of the Church consists in this: living the adhesion to Christ in community, making present the experience of those who encountered in him the nearness, the love and the forgiveness of God. That’s why maybe the most fundamental ecclesiastical text are these words of Jesus that we read in the Gospel: «Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst».
The first task of the Church is to learn to «gather together in Jesus’ name». Nourish his memory, live from his presence, make real their faith in God, open up today new paths to his Spirit. When this is lacking, everything runs the risk of ending up distorted by our mediocrity.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf