The Church is the People of God.

Sunday, 5/18/14
 Today’s readings suggest that we look into the position in the Church held by those who are not priests. 
The first reading told how the Apostles, not having time for business matter, chose seven capable men to handle the shopping and the paperwork. The second reading follows that up by calling all Christians, “A holy priesthood.”
Back in the Fifth Century, the position of ordinary Christians suffered a demotion. That happened after a new nation, the Franks, overtook Europe, converting to Christianity. Now, the Franks were not a very democratic race. They had a simple two-tiered society. The way that worked was, that nobles with inheritances had lands and slaves, while people without inheritances slept with the pigs. 
After the whole nation of the Franks received baptism in 496, the priest and the bishops were not keen on sleeping with the pigs, so they set up a unique ceremony. Each bishop and priest came before the assembly of the nobles, with each declaring, “I have an inheritance, my inheritance is the Lord.” (In my ordination ceremony back in 1952 the only thing I was given to say out loud was, “My inheritance is the Lord.”)
Now, the Frank's word for an inheritance was klerk. With that, the priests and bishops became a separate exalted level of society known as “the clerics.” The clerical society in turn, was organized hierarchically with authority descending from the pope, down through the bishops and pastors. 
When Vatican II came along, the Catholic Church’s chief policeman was Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect of the Holy Office. He prepared the original schema for the Constitution on the Church. That provisional document called the church a perfect society ruled by its hierarchy. However, eighteen hundred of the twenty-four hundred bishops in St. Peters rejected that schema.
On the orders of Pope John XXIII, the council prepared a new schema that was accepted. It declares first, that the Church, like Christ himself, is part human and part divine.  But secondly, the Church is the People of God. That’s what we are. 

Thirty years ago I took over a parish with a half dozen people who had read Cardinal Avery Dulles's book, "Models of the Church." You might remember how Dulles pointed out that Jesus identifies himself with five distinct roles. He was our teacher, friend, shepherd, way-to-the Father, and servant. 

The desire to imitate Jesus got the people in our parish involved in five commissions that carried out those five roles of Christ. With them taking over, I was freed to teach Religion to school kids. Such people-parishes that were inspired by Vatican II have been a boon to the Church. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Father, you love teaching and are a,ways going to be a teacher because it is in your heart..

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