Yesterday was the last day in office of Pope Benedict XVI. The Chair of Peter is empty. The Church he left behind is roiled in turmoil – beset financial scandals, numerous incidents of sexual abuse, seemingly out of touch and dense to the signs of the times.
Christ has challenged his followers to be the salt of the earth and give ‘flavor’ to life. He once asked: “If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” In many instances, the Church has become too salty. Salt is also a preservative and the Church today is a great force for preservation. It has become such a bastion of conservatism it is difficult to make real and meaningful changes. This situation is such a far cry from the Christ I read in the Gospels, who loved to turn things on their head.
Christ also instructed his disciples to be the light of the world, shining enlightenment to a world groping in darkness. In many places today, the light of the Church has burst out into flames with some church leaders invoking fire and brimstone upon those who oppose the Church. This is the reason why many today are turning away because they find it difficult to see in the Church the Christ who has said: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Christ prayed that his disciples be like the leaven of the world. But in many places and times, the leaven has become the dough. Some Catholic countries indeed today look like unleavened breads, compared to the fluffy and fulsome breads of rich and progressive secular societies. The Church used to be at the vanguard of progress. Today, it is looked upon as an obstacle to development. Yet, Christ’s promise to his followers was: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
And yet, I see ferment everywhere I go. I am inspired by the many dedicated men and women in various Christian communities. I am specially thrilled by the many young people who are finding their way again to the Church. I see what we are going through as another desert experience for the People of God.
I pray for the Church I love so much and to which I have devoted time, talent and treasure. I pray for a humble and listening church, as Cardinal Tagle has challenged the Church to be, silently and anonymously being salt and leaven to a hungry and aching world. I pray for a caring and loving Church, sharing the warmth and glow of God’s Word with a bewildered world. I pray that we all stay steadfast in our faith and dedication to the Church. I pray that God will send the Shepherd we need to bring us out of the wilderness into the new promised land.
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
Matthew 21, 33-43 & 45-46