By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
Special to The B.C. Catholic
This is an excerpt from a lecture by Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, given for World Catholicism Week in April at DePaul University.
There are many today who say that we can be Catholic, love God, and claim Jesus as our Saviour but not belong to the Church. Yet Jesus reveals Himself to us through the sacraments of the Church.
We must never marginalize Christian revelation and its ecclesial transmission by proposing alternatives where misuse of the terminology of "spirituality" or "kingdom" or "reign of God" is a substitute for Jesus Christ and His Church.
How are we to understand the reality and mystery of the Church? Is the Church an institution like any other organization or human institution?
In my work at Salt and Light Television Network I have had to learn quickly about broadcast technology and all that goes into making a good film.
One important aspect of television is the intricate camera work "behind the scenes." The close-up and wide-angle camera shots make all the difference in filming and telling a story.
In producing our programs or documentaries at Salt and Light, if we use too many close-ups we lose sight of the bigger picture. If we overuse the wide-angle lens without attention to the particulars, it doesn't make for good television.
Good television combines the wide-angle or panoramic shots, the intermediate views of the surface, and finally the close-ups that offer attention to detail and often provide necessary depth for understanding the whole picture.
At the first Pentecost, Christians received the Holy Spirit, the universal principle of Christianity, and their eyes were opened to the universal import of the truths of Christianity as they encountered non-Jews who received the Holy Spirit just as they had done.
The whole of the New Testament can be understood as the emergence of the "catholic," the universal, in Christian life.
If Christianity had not moved from where it was particular and small, it would have been a small modification of the Jewish experience, a subset of Jewish piety that was still focused in and around Jerusalem and the restoration of a literal kingdom of Israel.
The first two generations of Christians discovered that Christianity couldn't be just that.
I would like to offer you three lenses through which we might consider this mystery and meaning of Pentecost, the birth of the Church: 1) the wide-angle lens that looks at our belonging to the Church; 2) an intermediate lens that focuses on the ideologies at work in the Church today, and 3) a zoom lens to sharpen our hope, the great manifestation of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. We are part of this Church and we live, move, and have our being within the Church.
One of the main themes permeating the thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola is his exhortation "Sentire cum ecclesia," to think with the Church or to feel with the Church and to love the Church.
It is necessary to cultivate this communion of shared devotion, affection, and purpose in a very disciplined way, for not all aspects of the Church are lovable, just as we are not always lovable as individuals.
Many times during the tedious preparations 10 years ago for World Youth Day 2002, and over the past nine years of establishing Canada's National Catholic Television Network in such complex times for the Church, I have found consolation in the words of Erasmus of Rotterdam: "I accept and love the Church as it is, with all its qualities and defects, because the Church accepts me and loves me as I am, with all my qualities and all my defects."
The structures of the Church cannot exist without human mediation, without all the gifts and defects of the persons present in the Church. We cannot honour and serve the head (Christ) while disregarding or despising the body (the Church).
Long ago St. Cyprian said: "Who has not the Church for mother can no longer have God for father."
The story of the first Pentecost invites us once again to walk with the Church, breathe with the Church, hope with the Church, feel with the Church: "sentire cum ecclesia."
What does the Church mean for me as an individual and for us as the Catholic community? What is my personal relationship with the Church? Do I love the Church? How do we love and speak about the Church? Do we feel loved by the Church?
Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, is the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation.