Did you attend church? How was church today? Can you believe how long church lasted? These are questions you have undoubtedly heard many times before. You probably have asked them yourself. They are all valid questions, except maybe for the last one about the length of Mass.
The current pandemic may have occasioned some new questions. Aren’t you sad we are unable to have church? Don’t you love livestreamed church? Won’t it be fantastic when we can have church again?
What all these questions have in common is that church is equated with a church service in a church building. And though church services and church buildings are a very important part of our church life, there is so much more to being church than that. The current pandemic offers us the unsolicited but hopefully renewing opportunity to think more deeply about what it means to be church.
For now, the active participation in the liturgy that is so important to all of us has been largely taken away from us. This inability to worship in our churches is compelling us to actively participate in the church beyond the liturgy and outside our church buildings. We are (re)-discovering that church is not just a building we go to and a liturgy we participate in but rather church is a way of interacting with one another and our world. In a profound sense we are no longer consumers of church rather we are (re)-discovering what it means to be creators of church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church posits that the Church is the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. All three understandings of Church root us in our relationship with our Triune God who is our creator, our savior and who inspires us. Though of course we are initiated into the church during worship and worship nourishes and heals us during our earthly journey, this three-fold understanding of church is very much outward oriented. We, as the church are meant to “seek the well-being of the City to which we have been sent, for in its well-being we will find our own.” (Our Vision Statement after the Prophet Jeremiah)
Gaudium et Spes, the 1965 Constitution on the Church in the Modern World makes it abundantly clear that the church exists in and for the world. It states that “it is the duty of the whole People of God, following the word and example of the bishops, to alleviate as far as they are able the sufferings of the modern age.” This mission has a great urgency today. Though we may not be able to gather in church for church, our calling to be church is more important than ever.
Today, on the Solemnity of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of our church. Let’s implore the Holy Spirit to inspire us to find ever new ways to realize our mission of creation, salvation and inspiration in this ever changing and ever more complex world.
Come Holy Spirit!