“To the Holy Spirit and to us”. Still, it is always tempting to do things on our own, in an “ecclesiology of substitution”, which can take many forms.
Another turn of phrase, an ecclesiology of substitution. It is indeed a human indulgence that when there’s a gap, we feel the urge to fill it. Sound into silence. Decoration on a blank wall. A rule when something unexpected happens. And the something doesn’t have to be bad.
As if, once ascended to heaven, the Lord had left a void needing to be filled, and we ourselves have to fill it. No, the Lord has left us the Spirit! Jesus’ words are very clear: “I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete, to stay with you forever… I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:16.18). In fulfilment of this promise, the Church is a sacrament, as we read in Lumen Gentium, 1: “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race”. That sentence, which echoes the testimony of the Council of Jerusalem, contradicts those who would take God’s place, presuming to shape the Church on the basis of their own cultural and historical convictions, forcing it to set up armed borders, toll booths, forms of spirituality that blaspheme the gratuitousness of God’s involvement in our lives.
“Blasphemy” is a strong word, perhaps. But the effect sometimes is the same. Human fabrications are elevated to the level of divine establishment. We think we know the mind of God, but the reality is that God continues to surprise us. A positive expression of the Church as sacrament:
When the Church is a witness, in word and deed, of God’s unconditional love, of his welcoming embrace, she authentically expresses her catholicity. And she is impelled, from within and without, to be present in every time and place. That impulse and ability are the Spirit’s gift: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). To receive the power of the Holy Spirit to become witnesses: this is our path as Church, and we will be Church if we take this path.
The key here is for all of us in the Church to think of ourselves as witnesses and our project as witnessing, pointing to Jesus and to his mission. We can always say, “We tried our best, and we messed it up with our own interpretation at times, but where we point, where we gesture: he is the One.
This speech is copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana