Reformation Day 2013: The Most Love-Filled Sect I Have Ever SeenOct 31st, 2013 | By Jason Kettinger | Category: Blog Posts
We have come up on another October 31. Though Reformation Sunday has already passed, this date is the anniversary of the 95 theses, though of course it is difficult to separate fact from legend even in such an important thing as this. In any case, I recall that I used to celebrate this day, the day when all that was wrong with Western Christendom finally began to be purified. Now, I am choked with tears, because at the least, I did not understand the first thing about the Church I dared to rebuke.
At this point, you may say to yourself, “Of course he says that now,” you mentally note to yourself, “he’s Catholic.” I’m willing to accept that dismissal for the rest of my life, if the one who makes it is willing to listen to his or her conscience when it says the same words. How much do I really know about the traditions of those with whom I dialogue? We have been encouraged in this space to cultivate the virtues of true charity, and the skill of real dialogue. I tell you the truth, I have room to grow. Yet it wasn’t very long into dialogue with the Catholic Church and its teachings that I realized what little I really knew, and how little I had truly listened. To paraphrase Chesterton, to listen without pretense or pre-judgment to the Catholic Church invites one to fall in love with her. Perhaps that makes me a compromised witness, in a sense. On the other hand, the very treasure that partners in dialogue can appreciate is the treasure of Christ himself. Christ not only possesses that truth; He is Truth. Therefore, both aspects of appreciation and polemic find their ends in communion with Christ. Not only do we seek to bring others into deeper communion, but we hope that we do not disqualify ourselves in our zeal to find truth.
If the many elements of sanctification and truth that are found outside the visible structure of the Catholic Church really do impel toward catholic unity, we must expect to be drawn ever closer to the center of faith, to the Church, which is Home. What indeed are the obstacles, or the ideas that are nothing more than the fruit of bitterness? We know that irrational prejudice does not belong to Him who is Love itself. How could I have ever believed that I was standing for the good news of Christ while I either ignored or denied fellowship to 1 billion of my brothers and sisters? I recall also that along with those opinions that were contrary to the teaching of the Church, I believed by necessity that the gospel had been lost or hidden for many centuries until it was recovered by the Reformers in the 16th century. But I now must ask you the same question I asked myself: “Does this sound like the work of the Incarnate Word who is God with us? Is it fitting that the one who promised He would be with us even to the end of the age would allow His Church to be completely destroyed?” These were the questions that seemed flatly contrary to the intimacy and the faithfulness of God reflected in the Incarnation. Indeed, the motives of credibility completely depend upon the reality of the Incarnation.
I was honestly forced to ask if I would bow in adoration to an ethereal concept without form or substance. Was the household of God simply an object of eschatological hope? It did not seem at all proper that the unity of all Christians should be something confessed, but in no way realized. When we ask the questions about how we know what we know, we are really asking and hoping to find the means of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people and to the world. In short, we are looking for the visible Church. The Lord Jesus walked with His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and Saint Luke records, “and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Every story of recognizing Jesus is a story of connecting the dots of continuity and faithfulness. When we courageously begin to investigate the history of Christianity, we are inviting our own moment of recognition to occur upon the road. We may not find Him where we thought, but we will find Him if we are persistent.
No one here at Called To Communion advocates unity for unity’s sake. We do not believe the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded simply because it is easier. Rather, we have all found that the true task of the theologian (and all Christians must be theologians in one sense or another) is to find the truth concerning God in Christ and bind it together like a rope composed of many threads. As we do this, we find our hearts burning within us, as those disciples did as they walked and talked with Jesus along the road. St. Peter preached to the gathered Jews at Pentecost, and though the people assembled there could not see and could not have anticipated the full picture of the truth as it unfolded before them, when St. Peter took the threads of truth from those various Scriptures and bound them together, their duty was clear.
We may be in our own context a Pharisee of Pharisees, circumcised on the eighth day of the tribe of Benjamin, but like St. Paul, we must be ready to declare it all rubbish for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord, if indeed the Catholic Church is the story of Christ’s own faithfulness to His people and to the world.