Church Life,  Faith and Life,  Opinion

A Church of Prevention

Sometimes, someone says something which just seems to crystallise what you have known within yourself and considered to be true and accurate – but the very vocalisation of their words, giving expression to that thought, make it plain that the sense you have is shared by others. This has the resulting effect of stopping us in our tracks and making us think. This was such a day.

A wise friend of mine on social media wrote this earlier today –

We Christians must decide whether we’re going to be a Church of proclamation, announcing the good news to a world sorely in need – or a Church of prevention, keeping those in want from reaching our Saviour. Which are we?

The Lord is very clear where He stands in relation to this question. His actions throughout His life on earth give a very clear, consistent and unequivocal answer to the question – He not only proclaims the Good News, but He extends it to all; and He pointedly offers Himself and His embrace to those whom society and the religious leaders of the time expressly rejected – the sinner, the tax collector, the prostitute, the woman, the widow and many others. Shunned by the religious people of the day, all of these people found the warmth of Christ offered wholeheartedly to them.

The Gospels also make it very clear to every one of us what the answer to the question is – we are called to be a Church of proclamation, going out into the world and proclaiming the Good News of that same Jesus Christ.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gives the same answer, telling us that he sees the Church as a ‘field hospital’, her arms open wide in welcome to all, without exception or exclusion, seeking to heal the wounds of aching humanity and wishing to apply her balm to those wounds.

So far, so good.

But things become complicated with us, the followers of Christ in our own day. So often, our answer to the question is at odds with all those given above. Unlike Christ, unlike the Gospels which present Him to us, unlike the Church which proclaims Him and the Pope who speaks in His name, we choose to do the opposite. We make the Church ‘a Church of prevention’.

We seek to tightly shut the doors of our Church, firmly bolting them and removing any authentic possibility of evangelisation or of welcome, of inviting others outside the Church to come inside and feel the warmth of our welcome. We seek to make the membership of this Church so intensely difficult – impossible, even – that many feel unable to live up to the ideal presented to them and walk out in exasperation. We reduce the love and the ethical beliefs of the Church, her very morality, to one or two specific areas, completely disregarding the complexity and depth of her morality in it’s wholeness – and in the process, entirely ignoring the complexity and depth of every human person alive on the planet today.

Christ came for sinners – He tells us this Himself very clearly indeed. When we judge ourselves to be perfect Church members, while at the same time decrying the sinfulness we perceive in everyone else, this is most likely because we have completely lost our way. And in doing so, we drive many others from their path to Christ. And seeing ourselves as perfect, rather than as those sinners for whom Christ came, we take ourselves off the path which leads to Him.

The same very wise friend quoted above, wrote this yesterday –

If you’re more focused on the need for others to repent than you are on your own need to repent, there’s a solid chance you’re doing Christianity wrong.

There is a very sensible lesson there in those words for all of us. Our first task is to get ourselves to Heaven, and then to do all we can to get others there, too. The question is how we do this. Better to look deep within ourselves and see the many sins that lurk there, than to cast our gaze upon others and loudly pass judgement on any sin we deem to be present within them.

A cold and judgemental Church is not attractive – it does not draw others to the Lord. And arrogance and spiritual pride are not virtues – they are quite the opposite, and they are very off-putting to those who sincerely seek the Lord. If we present a cold and judgemental Church to the world and to all those around us, we should not be surprised that our efforts are in vain and we find ourselves living in a Church of prevention, rather than one of proclamation.


.. for Rick, with thanks..

Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

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