From the Director - God makes 'the new' possible

At Pentecost we celebrate God's initiative in leading us to new horizons and acknowledge that we are not God's People by our own efforts.

In the opening sentences of the book of Genesis a divine wind is sweeping over the waters (Gen1:1-2) and God brought forth creation. The same divine wind, a violent wind swept over the disciples on Pentecost Sunday changing timid hearts to courageous, even bold hearts, and creating the Church, the Christian community. Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council was regarded as a Spirit-filled event/meeting when the Church changed direction from standing as a fortress defending itself in the world to becoming a voice preaching the 'Good News' in the market place.

It was a time of optimism - the Church was acting in a new way in a changing world. Now fifty years later, the Catholic Church is being pulled and pushed from within and treated with disdain from without.

If we read the Acts of the Apostles, in the early chapters we get a glimpse of the Christian community in its earliest days. Acts 2:42-47 features an idyllic Church, like the garden of Eden, the way everything ought to be.

It was not long before difficulties arose in the Christian community. St Paul opposed Peter to his face. Questions were being raised about food... what could they eat and what could they not? What was at stake was their religious identity. What did they retain from their Jewish faith and customs, what did they let go of? How was their Christian faith going to change them? Such profound questions.

Factions broke out in the Church in Corinth; St Paul mentions them in Cor 1-12 'I belong to Paul', 'I belong to Apollos', 'I belong to Cephas', 'I belong to Christ' depending on who baptised them. St Paul chastised them. We forget the profound issues with which they wrestled in the early Church simply because of the newness of living this faith.

Is it possible that we have expectations of the Church that are too simplistic? For example, some commentators on the Vatican Council II said that the changes instigated in the Church by the Council were the most significant in 1,000 years. It is quite a statement. Presuming it is true, why have we expected the Church to settle down in just 50 or 60 years?

At the same time our own knowledge and experience is shaped by an accelerating rate of change in our world especially through its extraordinary and wonderful technology; this is giving us a 'new' world in which time is becoming instant. Everything has to be done 'now'. Some problems do not yield to the 'now' imperative. No wonder our expectations exceed our ability to get the Church in good shape.

Who knows where we are headed in our Church or in our world? We place our confidence in the Spirit of God who has always been with us: at creation, at Pentecost, at the Second Vatican Council. The Sacred Scriptures show that initiatives for change or 'breakthrough' come from God. God makes 'the new' possible. We ought not confuse trust in God and the Church with a simple, clear and uncomplicated life in relationship with God and the Church.

Fr Gary Walker

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