Sunday, October 4, 2015

Light of the world

The world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can ignore us. And in fact, it does. And can you wonder why? The world looks at the Church—and I am not dishonoring her in any way, the Church, I mean, because I belong to her, I’m a son—the world looks at the Church and doesn’t see much to write home about. At her best, the Church is as effective at helping people as some other charity organizations, as successful at educating and civilizing them as some schools, but when it comes to maturing people, to healing them—which is supposed to be her forté—the Church even at her best seems a sorry attempt. What does she put all her energy into? What is she—I’m speaking of the Church, right?—what is she here for?

The world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can ignore us. How do I know this is true? Look at how the world sits up and listens when Pope Francis speaks. He’s just a man like you or me. True, he is the Pope, but he’s not speaking and acting as the pope, but as himself, a man in Christ just as any of us. His papal dignity gives him an audience whether the world likes him or not, but until he came along, a Jesuit paradoxically mirroring another Francis whose following of Christ changed the world of his time, the world might stop and listen a moment, and then continue with its work, ‘it’s just the pope, who cares?’ But no, the world can’t ignore Pope Francis, because it can’t ignore Jesus. It’s not dumb. It can figure out who’s speaking.

The world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can ignore us. This doesn’t apply only to the world versus the Church. It applies to the Church herself, to what goes on inside of her, in the Body of Christ, which is what we are. Christians are also part of the world. We can’t ignore Jesus, but we can ignore the many voices—authorities, officers, programmers, money-changers, and other hirelings—that speak ‘in His name.’ Not all Christians are as dumb as doormats. Nor are we deaf. Nor are we incapable of distinguishing the voice of the Shepherd from the many voices that try to deafen us to His voice. When the Church is healthy, when her leaders don’t ignore Christ, then her people don’t ignore them. We listen, we obey.

The world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can ignore us. There’s no way we can fool the world. It is as cunning as serpents, as the Lord tells us to be, but it has abandoned the innocence of doves that faith in Him bestows. The world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can disobey Him. And in fact, it does. Isn’t it strange, then, that we who are supposed to be ‘in the world, but not of it’ also disobey? Can this be why the world can’t ignore Jesus, but it can ignore us? ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned’ (Isaiah 9:2). Of whom is the prophet speaking? Is it us, or them, the Church, or the world, or both? Whom does Jesus call, ‘You are the light of the world’?

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