Three Masses for me this weekend. One with my family last night and two today, playing the piano, as many of our accompanists were otherwise engaged for the weekend. Or retreating homeward before they get too deep into the semester.
This great line from the letter of James struck me, considering the congregational singing this weekend:
doers singers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
And that’s no straw!
If Matthew’s Gospel give the strongest foundations of the Reign of God, then Pope Paul picks up on the other three evangelists to cite Jesus’ novelty, authority, approval, grace, and his uniqueness. The divinity shines through: Jesus says the Word, and our hearts and destiny are changed:
11. Christ accomplished this proclamation of the kingdom of God through the untiring preaching of a word which, it will be said, has no equal elsewhere: “Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it.”[Mk 1:27] “And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.[Lk 4:22] There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.”[Jn 7:46] His words reveal the secret of God, His plan and His promise, and thereby change the heart of man and his destiny.
Miracles are not wonders to be worked, but exist for the purpose of deepening faith and furthering the Reign of God:
12. But Christ also carries out this proclamation by innumerable signs, which amaze the crowds and at the same time draw them to Him in order to see Him, listen to Him and allow themselves to be transformed by Him: the sick are cured, water is changed into wine, bread is multiplied, the dead come back to life. And among all these signs there is the one to which He attaches great importance: the humble and the poor are evangelized, become His disciples and gather together “in His name” in the great community of those who believe in Him. For this Jesus who declared, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God”[Lk 4:43] is the same Jesus of whom John the Evangelist said that He had come and was to die “to gather together in unity the scattered children of God.”[Jn 11:52] Thus He accomplishes His revelation, completing it and confirming it by the entire revelation that He makes of Himself, by words and deeds, by signs and miracles, and more especially by His death, by His resurrection and by the sending of the Spirit of Truth.[Dei Verbum 4]
The Paschal Mystery is the apex of Jesus’ gift of signs to us. It is more than his death. It is also the Easter events: Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. These are the signs which enable the Church to continue in its mission, inspired to spread the Kingdom by further Jesus’ Word and demonstrating in ourselves the transformation that is possible. Of course, that is the ideal. Even in our imperfections, Christ is able to work grace in the lives of seekers, non-believers, and even those Christians who have fallen into some degree of inactivity.
What did inculturation mean particularly for Catholics coming to the New World, to the United States?
§ 42 § When the Gospel was first brought to America, it arrived clothed with expressions of European Christian culture and piety. Grateful for these invaluable gifts, the Church in America slowly, and often reluctantly, developed an appreciation for native music, language, and art and accepted them for use in the service of the liturgy. Today the Church in the United States is again exploring how to translate the Gospel and to build churches in conversation with complex, secularized cultures that have sometimes rejected religion and attempted their own forms of human transcendence through intricate electronic modes of communication, art, and architecture.(Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 42; Catechesi Tradendae 53; Irish Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, The Place of Worship: Pastoral Directory on the Building and Reordering of Churches [PW] (1994), no. 3.7) Secular cultures in industrial and post-industrial countries have been particularly difficult to evangelize since they often treat human dignity selectively, attempting to control the mystery that animates the human thirst for meaning and purpose, and ignore those who do not fit their economic or social purpose. The Gospel requires that particular care be taken to welcome into the Church’s assembly those often discarded by society—the socially and economically marginalized, the elderly, the sick, those with disabilities, and those with special needs. In building a church, every diocese and parish must wrestle with these and other complex questions raised by the Church’s mission to evangelize contemporary cultures.
§ 43 § Parishes in the United States today often find their places of worship shared by people of varied languages and ethnic backgrounds and experience vast differences in styles of public worship and personal devotion. What can sustain Christian communities in this challenge of hospitality is the realization that a pluralism of symbolic, artistic, and architectural expression enriches the community.(CCC 1157-1158; cf. SC 119)
This is a rather progressive text, and a potentially difficult one for many Catholics, as it associates uniformity with some aspects of contemporary economics and other expressions of Western culture. Many people of various ideologies have difficulty with the principle of unity in pluralism. And this would not be a unity in spite of disparate elements. The Church’s teaching on evangelization suggests various elements combine to enrich the Body; indeed they express different parts. Even so, the notion that churches should be appealing, accessible, and able to be an evangelical tool for the greater mission of the Gospel–this is paramount among human concerns.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.