Before there were Churches…
there were small Christian communities, before there were small Christian communities there was Jesus and the few people drawn to his word and who gave up everything to come and follow Him.
In Luke’s Gospel we read that Jesus went throughout the countryside, cities and villages proclaiming and bringing the Good News. With Him were his disciples as well as some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities. At this point in the Gospel those who chose to follow Jesus were those who had a very intimate connection with Him. Despite clashes with authorities and disdain from their own peers they found in Jesus something worth hanging onto and giving their lives for.
What a different a message we read in the letter to Timothy. In this passage we receive a warning to keep our eyes open for those who will use the Gospel only to their own advantage. For these, religion becomes a social game to dominate others, to make money and, left unchecked, such attitudes had great potential to destroy a community.
If we take a step back and look at our own Church today we must be honest and say that both visions of church shown in the readings are alive and well. There are indeed scandals in the Church brought about by those who have sought only their own gratification and who have used the Church as a weapon against others. This has been seen in areas of the abuse of power, financial mismanagement and the betrayal of trust. But that does not diminish in any way the powerful witness of the many who, like the disciples and the women who followed Jesus in His time, have felt the healing touch of their saviour and who only want to come and give thanksgiving so that they can go and bring the Good News into their contemporary setting.
The readings call us to be vigilant and watchful for destructive influences in the Church and in ourselves but not to become cynical. The Church can be beautiful; after all it is God’s gift to us. Like fine silverware it needs to be scoured in order for it to shine. The difficulties of our present Church might be seen as a trial for believers but ultimately I believe that it will come to be seen as a purification, a cleansing if you will so that all that is good in the Church may again be seen for God’s glory.
One of the ways we can regain our sense of the Church that Jesus left for us is to join together with other likeminded people to share our difficulties and frustrations but also our joys and the things that we love about the Church. In other words… to share our faith with one another, both its ups and its downs. Perhaps you can look into what is offered at you own parish or you can offer to your Pastor to help begin small faith groups in your parish community.