"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
The union that binds the members of Christ together is not the union of proud confidence in the power of an organization. The Church is united by the humility as well as by the charity of her members. Hers is the union that comes from the consciousness of individual fallibility and poverty, from the humility which recognizes its own limitations and accepts them, the meekness that cannot take up on itself to condemn, but can only forgive because it is conscious that it has itself been forgiven by Christ.
The union of Christians is a union of friendship and mercy, a bearing of one another’s burdens in the sharing of divine forgiveness. Christian forgiveness is not confined merely to those who are members of the Church. To be a Christian one must love all people, including not only one’s own enemies but even those who claim to be the ‘enemies of God’. ‘Whosoever is angry with his brother or sister shall be in danger of the judgment. Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that persecute and speak calumny of you, that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.’
The solidarity of the Christian community is not based on the awareness that the Church has authority to cast out and to anathematize, but on the realization that Christ has given her the power to forgive sin in his name and to welcome the sinner to the banquet of his love in the holy Eucharist. More than this, the Church is aware of her divine mission to bring forgiveness and peace to all men and women. This means not only that the sacraments are there for all who will approach them, but that Christians themselves must bring love, mercy and justice into the lives of their neighbours, in order to reveal to them the presence of Christ in his Church. And this can only be done if all Christians strive generously to love and serve all people with whom they come into contact in their daily lives.
With all this talk about "instruments of unity" that is really nothing more than a misplaced attempt at a technical solution to the adaptive challenge of living in Communion, Merton offers something wonderful. What binds us together is not a common confession or an organizational structure or even a way of doing theology. What binds us together is our shared consciousness of our individual and corporate brokenness -- of our deep inadequacy and even deeper need of God. What binds us together is our common call to forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven of so much.
Our power lies not in drawing lines of who is in and who is out. Not, as Merton says, in our "power to anathematize" but in the power of hospitality. The power of welcoming. And not just welcoming as virtue in itself (as the left has inexplicably elevated "inclusion" to a high virtue often without considering word itself exactly what it is we are "including people into"!) but welcoming one another (for we are all sinners) to "the banquet of (Christ's) love in the Holy Eucharist."
Our welcome is not extended to something of our construction. Our welcome is only an extension of the the welcome we have received. Our love is only an extension of the love we have received. Our forgiveness is only an extension of the forgiveness we have received.
Of course there is room for people on both sides totally not to get what I'm driving at here. There's room for people on the right to feel self-righteous in that "love the sinner and hate the sin" kind of way and disguise through flowery phrases and high-sounding rhetoric the very anathematizing Merton rails against. There's room for people on the left to feel morally superior as more forgiving, more open and more loving -- even though such self-righteousness cannot coexist with the humility to which Merton (and Christ) calls us.
And, of course, there's plenty of room for me to feel self-righteously above the fray, to let my own anger at the conflict and the major players in it consume me and to bask in the glow of my own supposed wisdom in knowing better than them all.
And yet, as always, all these things bring all of us back to the same place -- convicted by our sin and brokenness, in deep need of forgiveness and love, and bound together most profoundly not by that which we fight over but by the brokenness that keeps us so deeply entrenched in the foxholes.
One of my favorite 1980s movies is Broadcast News. In it Albert Brooks plays what he plays best, an intelligent neurotic ... in this case a TV news reporter who is in love with Holly Hunter, who in turn is falling in love with a pretty-boy anchor (William Hurt) to whom Brooks feels morally superior but in every other way inadequate.
But before all this comes to a head, Brooks is musing with Holly Hunter on the phone about relationships:
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."