01 Nov 2019

Bishop Greg O'Kelly SJ November message

The Southern Cross  |  November 2019

View from the balcony

As we continue along our journey to the Plenary 2020, it is worth reflecting on the parable of the wheat and weeds. The hands wanted to pull out the weeds that an enemy had planted in the crop, but the farmer wisely noted that to do so would kill the wheat too, so intertwined were the roots of both wheat and weeds.

The parable was spoken by Jesus as an image for the Church. Jesus said that while we are not to be of the world we must be in the world. The Church cannot remove itself from the real world, no matter the corruption. We are not a sect, creating our own little island of purity. Jesus rubbed shoulders with sinners. He sat down and ate with them. He persevered with the Twelve even when they failed to get His message to the very end, when two betrayed Him, then all save one ran away when He needed them most, at His execution. ‘Go out into the highways and byways and invite all to the Feast,’ Jesus said. The Church is not just a museum of saints; it is a community of sinners and saints, as Pope Francis says. We only need to read our history.

Like most Bishops I have been confronted with stories about scandals, have met people deeply affected by wrongs done them by Church personnel, know a lot better than most about our shortcomings in our parishes and schools, am very aware that many women feel disempowered in the Church, and realise the pain of parents when their children seem to disengage from the practice of their faith.

But I also know about our blessings. I know that, warts and all, the Church remains a vehicle of salvation for humanity, for all our brothers and sisters. From time to time we need to get a view from the balcony.

When in the midst of the dance floor, moving and shaking and whatever with a crowd of people in tune with or submerged by the music, it is not possible to get the whole picture, to see the overall movements and patterns that are on the dance floor. I admit this image may be more appropriate for a former style of dancing (!) but when one went up onto the balcony and looked down on the dance floor, you could see the patterns of movement.

The Church has five features that transcend all the disturbances and human errors that beset it. Firstly, it is the Place of the Word. The New Testament was formed in the midst of the Christian community, it is the product of the Christian community. The Church both proclaims and teaches the Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It proclaims and interprets the message of Jesus, who is the Word spoken by the Father. The Church both proclaims and is formed by the Word in its midst.

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