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When I was a university chaplain many years ago I used to take groups of students to visit the Poor Clares. On one visit, the sisters began to introduce themselves.

 

There was one ancient-looking lady who beamed at us and said, ‘I’m Sister Mary Francis.’ Almost as one, the other sisters turned around to her and said, ‘No you’re not. We’ve told you this before.’  Then one sister added, ‘But we love you anyway’. The old sister beamed.

 

What struck me forcibly was the joy that exuded from those sisters. Their relationship with Christ filled them with gratitude. His revelation of love flowed from them in their simplicity. Is it our relationship with the Lord that matters to us more than anything else? Do we have a living personal relationship with Him? Is He the centre of life for us? For those sisters that is exactly who He was.

 

Peter, in the Gospels, is the one who seems at times to know. When Jesus asks him, ‘Who do you say I am?’, he replies, ‘You are the Christ’. The Christ means the anointed one, the one set apart to give life real meaning. We are told it is on this sort of faith that Church can be built. It is to him that the keys of the Kingdom of heaven are given and what are those keys? Love, forgiveness, reconciliation, compassion, mercy. They are the foundations of Church.

 

Ronald Rolheiser says: ‘Jesus gave us the keys to crack it. They can be named: vulnerability, the refusal out of love to protect ourselves, self-sacrifice, putting others before ourselves, refusing to give back in kind when someone hurts us, a willingness to die for others, the refusal to give ourselves over to cynicism and bitterness when things beset us, continued trust in God and goodness even when things look the opposite, and especially forgiveness, having our hearts remain warm and hospitable, even when we have just cause for hatred.’

 

Faith is always about being vulnerable with one another, seeking goodness, being open and warm and hospitable when it is the last thing you want to be. That is the reality of Church. The question for us is whether we want to give our lives to that reality or not?

 

Do we want to build a Church based on relationship with the Lord and with one another, empowered by the spirit or do we want to maintain a structure weighed down by the scourge of clericalism, power and authoritarianism. My sense is that a Church built on those things will ultimately collapse. However, a Church built on the power of faith in Christ and one another can never be overcome. A Church that is a servant, seeking only to love, forgive and be compassionate will last until the end of time. Let’s have the courage to open ourselves to the Lord and build that Church

Fr Chris Thomas

Fr Chris Thomas

Do we want to build a Church based on relationship with the Lord

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