Sunday, September 14, 2014

CONCERNING MY WOUND THAT WILL NOT HEAL


Some months ago an old wound of mine opened up again. Although by now it has been some time since this latest episode of the old infliction has come to me, the pain has not abated since then. In fact, in some ways it has gotten worse.

This time, I fear that the injury will not be healed even in my lifetime. It is beginning to look like I will take it to my grave.

This is a wound not of my body, but a wound of my soul. It is one that begins to ache when I see the Holy Communion being used to bring separation between believers, instead of being a sign of unity in fellowship, as Jesus intended it to be. The pain that comes to me is one of my heart, and is an affliction that actually drains me of strength.

When the pain started again, I was in attendance at a wedding that took place in a Catholic church. It was a meaningful and very nice ceremony; that is, until it came time for the Eucharist. At this point, I was shut out from the fellowship and not welcomed to be a part of it. It was then that my heart again began to ache. For some reason, the sorrow was particularly distressing for me in this wedding; even more so than at other occasions.

At other times when this wound had been opened, I have been able to let it heal, if only just a little. This time however, the healing has not come. The lesion has continued to fester.

The Eucharist, or as it is called in other churches, the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion, ought to be the utmost expression of Christian fellowship within the Christian community under the Lordship of Christ. I was genuinely happy for this young couple and wanted to share in this joyful occasion with them, but as a non-Catholic, I was not allowed to do so. The fact that I was a follower of Jesus Christ did not matter. I was shut out from this fellowship. I was an outsider, allowed only to be a witness. Nothing more.

There was an explanation for my exclusion printed in the program for the wedding. I quote it below:

 

For our Fellow Christians

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may be one (John 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not fully united are ordinarily not admitted to the Holy Communion. (cannon 844.4)

 

THE SPIN

As I read the above explanation in the wedding program, I could not help but think of statements put out by either the Democratic or Republican political parties who were trying to explain an inconsistency in their policy. We, in our culture, have become very adept at putting political “spins” on any controversial statement in an attempt to shift the blame from ourselves to the other party.

This was my take on this explanation in the program. Behind the “talking points” of why I was not welcomed to have a part in the Communion, was a political spin to show why this prohibition was not the fault of the Catholic Church, but it was my fault.

Below are some of my additional thoughts as I read this statement in the wedding program.

 

A SAD DIVISION

As for the first paragraph of the wedding program explanation, the only comment that I have is “Amen.” As is stated in the paragraph, the present divisions that exist within the body of Christ have always been “sad” to me as well. In my work overseas, I worked with very many different Christian church denominations. I also tried to reach out to Catholics, but always without success. They did not consider me as being on equal footing with them.

I should say that this exclusive attitude of elitism is not restricted to the Catholic Church only. I have also come across other denominations or groups who refuse to work with other Christians, despite a common confession of commitment to Jesus Christ, and their common belief in the inerrancy of God’s Word in the Holy Bible.

I am an older man now, and in my life I have had my fill of explanations and rationalizations for this attitude of exclusivity. In the end, every explanation consists only of hollow words meant to placate the speaker’s own thinking.

 

THE MEANING OF THE EUCHARIST

This is the attitude that becomes apparent in the second of the paragraphs of the explanation. I had always before been under the impression that the reason the Catholic Church shut out other Christians from joining in the Eucharist was because Catholics believed that other Christians had different interpretations of the meaning of what physically and spiritually occurred concerning the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist observance.

I have written in other places concerning that particular issue. (Please see for example, the blog post, The Only True Easter Tradition) However, here we will look at the objection as stated in this second paragraph of the wedding program explanation.

As it is stated, “Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not fully united are ordinarily not admitted to the Holy Communion.”

As far as I am able to understand here, the objection Catholics have with me, a follower of Jesus Christ and redeemed by His blood, is because there is not a present day “oneness of faith, life, and worship.”

I cannot say that I am altogether sure what is meant here, because if Catholics consider their oneness of faith as meaning that it is centered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and redemption by His blood, that is also my testimony and has been for many decades.

Concerning their point of the oneness of life, my observation is the same. I have spent my adult life serving Christ in every way that I have been conscious. I know that there have been failures in my life, but service to Christ has been the overwhelming motivation for my living and in my work.

The only factor in this explanation that I can see that the Catholic must have a disagreement with me is concerning the oneness in worship. It is true that I do not normally worship in the Catholic Church. But even with this, this statement is no less confusing to me, since up until the time of the Eucharist during the wedding ceremony, I was allowed to be one in worship with all present.

 

THE CONTRADICTION

The line of separation between me and other Christians in this particular ceremony came at the time of the Eucharist. To me, this seems to be a direct contradiction of what was stated in the first paragraph: “We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us.”

If the true desire is for unity through the action of the Holy Spirit, I do not understand how shutting out another fellow Christian and follower of Jesus Christ is conducive to that unity. Quite the opposite. The attitude expressed in the statement seems quite contrary to the desire to dispel “these sad divisions,” as the Catholic Church calls them.

 

THE PARTY SPIN

In the end, I would have to say that this is why these words sound to me like nothing more than a political spin on a divisive practice. It is an attempt to cast the blame of the divisions upon me. It seemed to me that the real message behind the political talking points is that if a Christian does not belong to a Catholic Church, he is not a Christian at the same level.

Correct or not, that was and remains my impression of the view of the Catholic Church concerning my faith in Christ. They call me, “a separated brother.” Is that supposed to be an explanation?

The literal meaning of the word Eucharist is "showing favor or thanks." Showing favor? I hardly think so. In this case it was the casting of blame and judgment. It only served to deepen a wound that already existed in my soul.

The wound will one day be healed, but at this stage of my life, I fear that it will not be healed in my lifetime here on earth. It seems to me that this healing will only come by the direct intervention by Jesus Christ. We, in the church, have done a deplorable job in bringing healing to this wound.

2 comments:

  1. Separatism can easily become one's god.

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  2. The great separation....religion vs. relationship. The mysticism, elitism and "beauty" of separation vs. deep fellowship between brothers/sisters and our incredible God and Creator. Daily this reality also breaks our hearts. It is a reminder of the price Jesus paid. Last week we were considering God's broken heart over His people. We sing. "Break my heart for what breaks Yours...." but do we mean it or is it just part of a pretty song? For those who experience this heartbreak we are blessed to see a deep part of the Father's heart. To experience His ache and deep pain when we as His people choose man's tradition over the Way He has prepared for us - Matt. 11:28-30.
    We have also been contemplating I Peter 4:12-16 often these days... Sometimes we see persecution as only physical but it is and has always been much more than that and for those who experience it....you know when it comes to you. There is a rending, a ripping and a tearing and we get to see into God's heart by our experience and understand what's it's like, in a small way, to be rejected as Jesus was by those of His own faith.

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