The Sacrament of the World’s Possibility (Blog #4)

tapestry section from Our Lady of the Angels cathedral (L.A.)

…if the church fails to be a community of reconciliation, it has failed its essential mission. For Paul in the letter to the Ephesians, indeed, the church would have no more reason to exist. Note that, in this respect, to be catholic is to be holy… [the church] does become the sacrament of the world’s possiblity, the sign of what the world can be.

Against this ideal—the deepest meaning of the third mark of the church—the profound human tendency to gather with the like-minded, and therefore to form “the church” on the basis of similarity rather than difference, is difficult to overcome. Even with the power of the Holy Spirit, the catholic ideal is seldom accomplished.

The Creed, p.272

In a very real sense, the “catholic” marker is almost the counterpart to the “holy” marker. The question before us as members of the true Church is how do we have both? Can Jesus himself be a model for this? What basis in Scripture can you find? What are one or two issues facing the Church today that you can think of in which this challenge of maintaining holiness and catholicity at once is a primary necessity? How do you think the Church should deal with these issues in a way that is faithful to the ideals of “holy” and “catholic”? If there are any other quotes from Johnson or the Scriptures (or any others, for that matter) that you think are relevant to this question, please include those.

If you are not a student of mine, you can view this entry for a brief explanation of what I’m doing here.

11 thoughts on “The Sacrament of the World’s Possibility (Blog #4)

  1. I agree that the “catholic” marker is almost the counterpart(i looked that up)to the “holy” marker if in this sense catholic does mean holy. But the problem is, if it does mean holy, i don’t see how it is not the counterpart, thus making me too ignorant to answer your question.

  2. Haha. I’m mainly looking for your thoughts. I want to see you internalize these questions, think about them. Don’t feel like you need to know everything…

    Perhaps I should have used a word other than “counterpart.” I almost want to say that “catholic” is the opposite of “holy,” and I would ask how are the two reconciled, but then that is exactly how Jesus is. He is the holiest of all, and yet denies none who would come to him and be with him. So I don’t want to say “opposite,” exactly, but maybe, like the way Jesus lived his life, it’s more like the idea of having two sides of the same coin… What do you think?

  3. Hopefully my thoughts on your questions won’t be too scattered because I think they might be! So…“catholic” meaning “universal; not excluding anyone” is the counterpart or is to somewhat resemble the idea of holiness? The question then is how can we have both a universal and holy Church? One, we are a holy church that is filled with nothing but sinners who are forgiven; kind of ironic. Because Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins God does not have to turn his face away from us; he sees us as holy. Secondly, Christ opened the door for all to have the chance to enter into the Kingdom so that none would be excluded. “When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” (Mark 2.17)
    So then, is the Church allowed to draw the line for what is acceptable and what is not? Or is the Church supposed to be tolerant of everything? I think one of the issues that the Church would have to face, which is very prominent in our society today, is homosexuality. Does the church go along with society saying that homosexuality is okay just so no one can say that the church is being excluding? I’m not saying that the church would shun someone like that from coming into the presence of God, who knows they could be changed, but does the church have to come across as being passive to something like that? Or can they say what they believe without sounding like they are excluding people from being apart of the Church?
    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19.14) The only thing the church can do is not stop anyone from coming and allowing God to deal with their sin. But, if things get out of hand I think the Church has the authority to draw the line for what is appropriate.

    I hope that made sense.

  4. For the church to be both “holy” and “catholic”, they first have to be one church. If there’s too much diversity, there is no “one”, and both are a requirement for the church. I think that for the Church, as a whole, to be one, we must agree on what is holy.
    I think a big problem with the Church is that the people within the Church have different morals than others. They think things as homosexuality and alcoholism are alright. Or it may be that they don’t agree with it, but they’re not going to say anything against the other person, and just let it be their business.
    Homosexuality, alcoholism, drugs, and a lack of purity are some issues that our church faces right now. We are taught to forgive and accept everyone for who they are, for even Jesus ate with the sinners. But then there are also Scriptures that say “Bad company corrupts good character”. So where do we draw the line? There’s the ever popular saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” but how would you explain that to the sinner? I think there needs to be a balance with our association and acceptance of people living in sin. We can love and not judge, but share what we know to be true of sin. Christianity is an all or nothing deal. We can’t sit on both sides of the fence. To purposely sit in your sin and be okay with it is not being a Christian that is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    All of this reminds me of a passage in 1 Corinthians 5 (NLT). We’re often told that we are not to judge anyone around us. Paul, however, speaks somewhat differently. Instead, he states that we aren’t to judge those outside of the church. This makes sense because how can we hold someone to our own standards when they are not one of us? But we must hold each other accountable to God’s standards.
    By the way, I read about four different translations, and found this one to get the point and meaning of the metaphors across the easiest:

    I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you, something so evil that even the pagans don’t do it. I am told that you have a man in your church who is living in sin with his father’s wife. And you are so proud of yourselves! Why aren’t you mourning in sorrow and shame? And why haven’t you removed this man from your fellowship?
    Even though I am not there with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. Concerning the one who has done this, I have already passed judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus. You are to call a meeting of the church, and I will be there in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus will be with you as you meet. Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan’s hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns.
    How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don’t you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not by eating the old bread of wickedness and evil, but by eating the new bread of purity and truth.
    When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people.
    It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”

    We can stay holy by universally sifting through the Church for those immoral believers.

  5. Well, I think I was hung up on the fact that it says catholic means holy in this sense. But if we can talk about it being universal I remember answering something like this in class. Jesus is a model of having both because He calls the people and tells them to sin no more. John 8.3-11(NRSV)…3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.* 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’* And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’]]*

  6. the two challenges that we have today in church are tradition and religion because catholics have more of a tradition to praise and not pray but recite small prayers. and christians are more into the praying and being into the holyspirit which makes people to believe that christians are trying to be holy.but christians are not religious they have a true reletioship with God. just as God said there is no religion and both Holyness and Catholisismhave something similar they both believe in God and praise the same God other than having some small differences. meaning that in the old days jesus told his deciples that he could destroy the temple and ebuild it in three days,what he meant by that is that we are the church and that we are all holy and catholic at the same time. As long as we both believe in the father, the son and the holy spirit just as the christians and chathoics do go says that\\\\\\\\

  7. how can we be both ‘catholic’ and ‘holy’? IF you are holy you are set apart or ‘other’ so as Christians we are set apart from the world. Being set apart we become catholic in a very real sense because we are together.

    An issue could possibly homosexuality. I would say if a homosexual was a Christian(how? idk) we would have to be set apart from the world in that we shouldn’t “accept” him(or her)because it is wrong but we have to show Christ’s love. So, the question presents itself as very difficute to answer. How can we be holy(set apart from the world) yet be catholic(not excluding anyone)

  8. Great thoughts, you guys! Sorry I haven’t been interacting with you all more frequently on this post. All the comments have come in rather quickly at once (hmm, wonder why…) and at a very hectic time.

    Rochelle, thanks for your thoughts. You sum up the conundrum of living as Jesus did quite well. And thank you for that passage from 1 Corinthians. You’re right, that translation does capture well Paul’s feeling on the matter.

    Andrew, I appreciate your continuing to look to Jesus as a model. I remember your comments in class to that effect.

    Several of you have brought up homosexuality as a case study for this problem, and indeed many parts of the Church in the West today are dealing with it, and it’s not a cake walk!

    One thing that has been on my mind lately is, could part of the reason why dealing with the homosexuality issue in particular (and other sexual issues in general, such as divorce and remarriage, adultery, fornication, etc. etc.) stem from a tendency (that I perceive, at least) in our society to allow our sexual behavior or tendencies or “identity” to be the defining factor in who we are? This isn’t just happening in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement, but in society in general, including the Church!

    Maybe part of the solution to Rochelle’s conundrum is coming to a point, individually and corporately, of saying, “If you want to know who I am, look at Christ, whose disciple I am.” Sexuality and its attendant questions then are subordinated to the question of “What is God’s character?” Our prideful claims to personal autonomy and “rights” would pretty much disappear. I’m reminded of that worship song that talks about giving up my rights (anyone know what song I’m thinking of?)

    In the meantime, and along with striving for this ideal that I just discussed, it is absolutely imperative that we look on others with the eyes of Christ. Would he turn away a homosexual person? What about Christians who struggle with homosexuality but don’t say anything? (Statistically speaking, there are probably several in our own student body.) Do we have enough compassion for these people? Consider the fact that the suicide rate of homosexual teens is triple that of straight teens. That should bother us.

    But, again, the Rochelle conundrum. It’s a tough one, but I know that Jesus would not have a problem with associating with homosexuals. We need to think really hard about this issue, especially as we speak to and about these people.

  9. Was the worship song you were thinking of Surrender?

    I’m giving you my heart, and all that is within
    I lay it all down for the sake of you my King
    I’m giving you my dreams, I’m laying down my rights
    I’m giving up my pride for the promise of new life

    And I surrender all to you, all to you
    And I surrender all to you, all to you

    I’m singing You this song, I’m waiting at the cross
    And all the world holds dear, I count it all as loss
    For the sake of knowing You for the glory of Your name
    To know the lasting joy, even sharing in Your pain

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