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Psalm 113

 

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! (ESV)

The Church Is Our Mother

Tuesday of the Last Sunday of the Church Year

26 November 2013

Some years ago, a member of the church I served at the time in desperate anger about some now forgotten offense, announced that he and his wife were no longer coming to church. When I asked him what he would do instead, he replied, "Well, pastor, we will read our Bible at home by ourselves." I asked him where the Bible he was going to read gave him permission to avoid the Christian gatherings (Heb 10:25). I also pointed out to him that he would be depriving himself of the sacramental gifts of Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of his sins. But the man remained undaunted by the facts. He was convinced that Christianity permitted him some kind of private, personal religion that simply ignored the other believers and avoided the community that Christ built by his precious blood.

 

The church would be so much better off without all the pesky people that are in it. If everyone could be just like me, there would be no problems in the church, no conflict, no differences of opinion. Unfortunately, on this side of the last day the people who are in the church remain the people who need redemption from their own sin and weakness, just like me. Only those who have need of the doctor should check into the hospital. Why should we be surprised that the church is full of sinners? It would be like being surprised that hospitals are full of sick people! If we judge the church by her children and their warring madness, the church is a worthless, conflicted, and unhappy institution. The only antidote to the church's tendency to human conflict and fragmentation, is the faithful teaching of the Lord and the command to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. What my former parishioner who was seeking the solitude of his own private meeting with Jesus forgot, was that, because both he and his wife were involved, there would inevitably be conflict between the two of them. And there was.

 

The church we should seek is not the one that suits us, our desires, or our predilections, but the one that preaches Christ, his mercy and forgiveness and distributes rightly the sacraments that He has given to the church. The people in the church are not perfect, only the Lord who gathers them is. The preachers aren't perfect, only the Lord who sends them is. Not every word spoken is good or right, but only if the Lord speaks it. If the church is God's, and it is, then it may not be our possession. We may only be her possession. If God is our Father, then the church must be our mother. There are no options. The child born of an earthly father must always remain the child of his earthly mother. So it is for those who are born of God (Jn 1:13).

 

Cyprian of Carthage

 

"The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home. She guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons to whom she has given birth for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger. He is profane. He is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If anyone could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who is outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, 'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.' (Mt 21:30). He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ. He who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one' (Jn 10:30). It is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one.' (1Jn 5:7). And does anyone believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in heavenly sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God's law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, and does not hold life and salvation."  


Cyprian of Carthage,
 On the Unity of the Church, 6
 
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You have given us the new birth to be Sons of God by Your word in our mother the Church. Help us to revere her and honor her for Your sake. Send her faithful sons who will receive her discipline. Keep her faithful to Your gospel that she might through gospel preaching and the right administration of the holy sacraments call more sons to Your faith. Amen.

 

For those who have become weary and fatigued under the strain of challenging weather, that the Lord would be their strength and shield

 

For relief agencies that they might serve the bodily needs of those in distress and rescue them from earthly trouble

 

For all attorneys and officers of the court, that they might be upheld in their mission to provide fair and equitable trials and equal rights under the law to all who appear before the bar of justice 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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