In the Gospel this morning for the 28th Sunday in Fall Ordinary Time we encounter a young man who is searching for something more in his life. He asks Jesus what he must do to inherit everlasting life, and Jesus in reply asks him the what is required, the commandments, the basics. When he informs Jesus that he has followed the law and done what is expected by his Faith Community, Jesus looks lovingly upon him but takes it to the next level. He tells him that he must sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. Once freed of all distractions, his heart will be able to focus upon Jesus, who is the source of eternal life. He was okay where he was, but if he wanted to probe deeper, to enter into the mystery of God and know his love, then he needed to take a new direction.
The author of Wisdom today said that he prayed, and two things were given him by God - prudence and wisdom. These two were greater than power or wealth, anything that could be won or even earned. These gifts led him to know God, to embrace his oneness with God, to move on to a higher level.
I spoke at Mass today of the great event of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, when well over two thousand bishops from around the world gathered with Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962 to look at the Church, to ask the question "What must we do to clarify our relationship with Christ, to intensify our experience of God's love, to strengthen the mission of Church?" Pope John XXIII called upon the Spirit to empower the Council with prudence and wisdom, so that the Church could clearly identify her mission, proclaim her commitment to the world, and better serve those whom she was entrusted with. That breath of the Spirit in the best sense threatened our stability but also opened our vision to what Church needed to be in the modern world.
I shared that in theology in the 70's we looked at Avery Dulles' "Models of the Church". He pointed out that the Church has many dimensions, many images, but he focused upon five: the Church as an Institution, a hierarchical view, a juridical approach. Prior to the Council this was a dominant but not exclusive model of the Church ..... also the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, coming out of Saint Paul's teachings and reaffirmed by Pope Pius XII in 1943 in the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi - seeing the Church as the Body of Christ, a Community of Believers, a living, dynamic entity that has a pastoral approach ..... the Church as a Sacrament, a sign given to us by Christ to bring us his love - like any sacrament it ties us to Christ and like any sacrament it requires more than just receiving or belonging, it requires living the life that the Sacrament gives .... the Church as Herald of the Good News, as an evangelizer, as a missionary - sometimes by a few to remote areas of the world but really by all to every aspect of our lives .... and the Church as Servant, healer of the sick, lover of the poor, protector of the downtrodden - following in the footsteps of the Master.
I believe that the Council invited us to see the full functioning of the Church in the Modern World as including all of these models plus many more, but flowing from the primary image of the Body of Christ. It was a revolutionary change. It was a tremendous challenge. It was the breath of the Spirit at work.
As I logged in to do this post I noticed that my page view counter has gone haywire. I was very near the 21,000 mark, but as I logged in it only listed four! I have to look into this. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this happened after my comments about the vice-presidential debate. Hmmm. I wonder.