The Kingship of Jesus is a sign of contradiction. In His life, He wore no golden crown but a crown of thorns; no horde of servants at His bidding but, He, the servant par excellence; no riding on a well-bred stallion but on a donkey; no earthly army yet refused to call the heavenly one to His rescue.
The Church at this moment is very much like that. Loss of power and prestige, dragged through the mud of social media for crimes committed and not committed; abandonment of the faith by swathes of Catholics, especially in the west; and rocked by post-Covid-19 repercussions, including financial fragility and bankruptcy.
We might as well give up were it not for the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ is the bedrock of Christian faith, source of undying hope and our zesser drink for the challenges of the 21st century.
No one feels that in his gut more than Pope Francis. Knowing and feeling the Church had gone desperately off course, he saw the need for a Synod of Bishops that would turn things upside down. He too did what he told youths to do in Christus Vivit: “Make a ruckus.”
This Synod, therefore, had to be different, one in which the bishops would not rule from above but exert their authority from below or within the communion of the 365 delegates gathered in Rome last October.
Speakers with equal rights around a round table. Women, too, were given the right to vote, and though small in number, their voice was by no means small.
This is the ruckus the Church needed because Francis wants his clergy – bishops, priests, deacons – to be where people are, in their struggles and anxieties, with parents and their sexually confused children, with migrants and refugees, and those struggling to believe.
“Realities are more important than ideas.” For too many of us the idea of pure doctrine is less important than the reality of people’s lived context. To get a deeper apprehension of that reality, representatives of the Church were gathered in Rome for one month voicing their opinion on all and every issue. Nothing was anathema, as in any good family household.
This was never going to be a free ride. The road would be rough: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too” (Jn 15:20). And persecute him they did in social media outlets, magazines and newspapers, and public gatherings. But he held firm. We too must stay the course if we are to move from maintenance to mission.
Our folk wisdom tells us: “Once a man, twice a child.” Our Church played man for too long. Now it is time to return to being a child.
This was the metaphor used by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, spiritual adviser to the Synod last October. The Church the Holy Spirit is trying to birth through deep listening and discernment is a daunting task. It involves letting go so that we may know where to go.
It is like a child learning to walk, Fr Radcliffe said, getting up, falling, getting back up. To abandon this child is to despair of him (her).
Now is not the time to abandon the Church but to walk with her, to walk the road to Calvary which in the end will lead to the New Jerusalem where the risen Lord reigns.