In her June 27 blog post, Jennifer Reek wrote: “Some Catholics are so busy being Catholics that they forget how to be Christians.” This simple reminder of what is to be at the core of our being and doing has remained with me. I wonder whether part of our ecclesial illness (and I refer to all of us) is that we have submitted to the temptation of sectarianism, both in how we see other believers and in how we see differing positions within the Church. We have, I fear, all too often lost sight of the simplicity of the Gospel, a simplicity that rings true throughout the history of salvation, as long ago as the words of YHWH to Moses: “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:7) One identity unites us and fundamentally identifies us: We are People of God. And so the question we need to answer individually and corporately is how do we live that out? How in today’s world, with today’s issues and challenges, do we “be God’s people?”
Not the easiest of dilemmas. However, I turn to Jesus’s instruction to “put new wine into new wineskins.” (Mk. 2:22). What is the new wine? What are the new wineskins? I believe the new wine is how you and I experience the Spirit alive and well in us and around us. It is God’s presence encountered in the world. The new wineskins? A world in which we are called to clearly and radically witness the divine presence in us and around us: we are God’s people and we are part of God’s creation.
So let’s not be afraid to question the significance of the divisions we have created and valorized. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether episcopal authority should return to the New Testament model of episkopos: overseer, not lord or sovereign. One who values all the People of God as bearers of the Spirit, not just those who wear a collar.
Is the Gospel today best served by a presbyter who is a “jack of all trades” assigned from “central office” or an elder chosen and respected by a community recognizing that person’s holiness, thus affirming the community as the Body of Christ, wise enough to recognize where the Spirit is manifest.
Internally, we Catholics struggle with the question of the ordination of women. Does the Church have authority to ordain women to the priesthood? Does not Acts 6:1 have any lesson for us? “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God ...” The apostles recognized the life of the Spirit in the community and invited the community to (dare I say?) innovate. The result? “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem … (Acts 6:7) Are Paul’s words to the Galatians meaningless: “There is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).
If we are the people of God, aren’t we intended to invite others to recognize the loving embrace of the Holy Trinity? So why do we insist on creating obstacles to the divine gift of Love? Why do we hesitate when Francis kisses the feet of a prisoner? Why are we eager to condemn sinners, yet hesitant to love them?
Isn’t it time that our worship of the Creator God be matched by respect for the creation that manifests the divine presence? Isn’t it time to repent of our avarice that is destroying creation and put on “sack cloth and ashes” in order to respect and save the planet?
Instead of arguing over who is or isn’t right/true/orthodox, perhaps we should come together in a circle of prayer to listen to each other and hear the Spirit. Perhaps we could remember Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians: “For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another, ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely human?” (1 Cor. 3:3-4) For are we not all God’s servants, working together (1 Cor. 3:9) building the kingdom?
Lest you think this idealistic, remember the time is now; the Spirit calls us to live the Gospel now, putting new wine into new wineskins, because we are the People of God.
Myroslaw Tataryn is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, Canada, and a Ukrainian Greco-Catholic priest.