Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The family Church

Perhaps it was because I am adopted,that I noticed when I was first started examining the Catholic Church that a primary metaphor for Catholics is family. Every denomination chooses certain parts of scripture to focus on and for us Catholics today's gospel from Luke 8 or its parallel in Matthew 12 are key to our understanding of what the word "Church" means. Jesus answers the question "Who are my brothers and sisters?"

If we understand that the Church is a family then the rest of our theology falls into place.

-His father is"Our Father".

-We are brothers and sisters.

-His mother is our mother, and we relate to Mary as our mother. No offense to fathers but I think it is safe to say that most of us have a special place in our hearts for mom.

-Jesus is the only-begotten son.

-We are the adopted children, but equally children of the same parents.

-Baptism is sacrament through which we are adopted and can never be undone or repeat. Your brother is your brother even if both of you deny it. Even if your brother goes and has his name changed, he is still your brother.

-If they behave very badly you may have to tell them that they are not welcome at certain family events (excommunication) but they are still members of the family.

-When people complain about infant baptism and the child not having a choice I ask, "Did you choose your family?"

-Even the centrality of coming together for Sunday dinner (Mass) makes sense if you think of it as family.

-The family photos all over the house (statues and stained glass windows).

For us Church is more than a community. Particularly in the 21st century communities have become things that people constantly move in and out of. That metaphor has come to represent something too unstable, something that is merely a matter of taste. Like all Christians we use multiple metaphors to explain Church, and community and body of Christ are also still important ones. But today's gospel reminds us that we are above all a family. We are part of the only family with perfect parents.