A Church Without Borders
Saturday, Seventh week of the Year: May 21, 2016
Mark 10:13-16. Year I: Sirach 17:1-15; Psalm 103:13-18; Year II: James 5:13-20; Psalm 141:1-8.
Parents were bringing their little children to Jesus for him to touch. His disciples didn’t think they should bother him. Jesus didn’t see it that way: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them.”
Jesus never lost his focus. He was immersed in the work of the Kingdom. That meant loving and ministering to people all the time. Later he would give Peter the “Great Commandment” of pastoral ministry: “Feed my sheep!” (John 21:15-17). Day in and day out, whatever else we do or neglect, and whatever rules we have to rethink, bend or adapt, the one thing Jesus asks us to do is “Feed my sheep.”
Then he adds a warning: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Openness. Children are open to everything. To them the world is a wonderland to discover. The storytellers tell us the rivers run with wine “only to recall that first glorious moment when we discovered they ran with water!” (Chesterton). Little children take magic for granted. They haven’t yet drawn borders around their minds. “It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
The word “catholic,” from kata holos, “throughout the whole,” means that, as Catholics, in our spirit we should be without borders: nationalistic, social, denominational, historical, philosophical, theological, mystical. It does not mean we have no clear doctrines or defined answers. But we are always open to more: more truth, more clarity, new perspectives, the riches of different cultures. Vatican II declared, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in [non-Christian] religions,” praising specifically the insights of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the faith of Jews and Muslims.
The Second Vatican Council urges us to “enter… into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions” and to “acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, together with their social life and culture” (“On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions,” no. 2). The Good News itself transcends all human thought and expression.
Francis would say of the Church what he said of Europe when receiving the Charlemagne award (May 6, 2016):
Forms of reductionism and attempts at uniformity, far from generating value, condemn our peoples to a cruel poverty: the poverty of exclusion…the roots of [the Church], were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures. The identity of [the Church] is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity.
If we ever get locked into the particular way we learned and were taught to do things, we will never experience “the breadth and length and height and depth,” and “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18- 19). If we have truly heard the Good News we will always be hungry for more.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Share, don’t shove, your faith. Show interest in others’ beliefs.