Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Church? Your Church? or JESUS’ Church?

Bottom line: Each one of us is called to be a rock, little or big to build the church that Jesus had laid the foundation on the corner stone rock – Peter. Some of us, like me, might not even be a small rock but rather the sand or cement to keep the rocks together. The way we live our lives in words, deeds, and actions are how we contribute to build Jesus’ Church!Remember my homily on “assumption of Mary’s” – Who want to be a celebrity? – Wow, today I like you introduce you to another one! Not Michael Phell nor the Basketbal dream team. The name is…. No, I am not telling you! You have to guess as I am preaching!

It was during the turbulent 1960s when it seemed that everything was falling apart. The priesthood was in crisis, religious life was in crisis, marriage was in crisis, faith was in crisis, the church was in crisis. One night, pope John XXIII after a long day of hard work trying to address these problems, he went to his private chapel to do his daily Holy Hour before retiring but he was too exhausted and too stressed out to focus or pray. After a few minutes of futile effort, he got up and said, “Lord, the church belongs to you. I am going to bed.” Now you might think the celebrity I want to say is Pope John XXIII – Not it is not him! So keep focus! He will be revealed shortly! (Don’t you fell like trying to figure out who is Obama’s or McCain’s running mate?)

You see my friends, difficulties might have driven the Pope to acknowledge that the church belongs to Christ. But Jesus himself said it 2000 years ago:

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

This passage is crucial for a proper understanding of what the church is, and our role in the church. For this is the most explicit statement that Jesus makes in the Gospels about the church.

Firstly and foremost, Jesus calls the church “my church.” This tells us that Jesus is the owner of the church. Neither Peter nor the disciples owns the church. Pastors and church leaders who think and act as if they own the church are like farm workers who go about posing as if the farm belongs to them. All God’s people have been called together as co-workers in Christ's vineyard, though some work as foremen overseeing others. But we do not own the church. We belong to the church. The owner/founder of the church is Christ.



Secondly, the passage tells us that Jesus is the one who builds his church. He is the master builder who has the building plan in his hands. Human co-operators are like masons and carpenters employed by the master builder to help him with the building. Our role is to listen and follow his instructions, doing our own small part in the grand design of the master. Workers who stick to their own ideas of what the building should look like rather than follow the directives given by the master may find themselves working at cross purposes with the master.

I read a story sometimes back about a Minister, an Episcopalian Priest, and a Catholic priest were sitting on the Lake of Galilee discussing the issue “Are you saved?” As you all know, a typical Christian non-Catholic answer would be: “I am, because I take Jesus as my personal savior!” I will show you that I am saved by walking on the water just as Peter did 2000 years ago.

He stepped out of his chair and began walking on the water. 1-2-3 he went down to the bottom of the lake. The Episcopalian Priest saw what happened and said: “He is not saved, but I am. I will show you that!” So he began to take steps on the water. 1-2-3-4-5 and then went down as well!

The Catholic Priest then said: “I know that not only am I saved, but all those who believe in Jesus and do what he commands will be saved as well.” He then stepped out and walked on the water. As he was moving the other two Ministers were amazed that a Catholic Priest “could do that!” When he came back the other two asked: “How could you do that?” The Catholic Priest answered: “I stepped on the ROCK!

Brothers and sisters, we heard Jesus say to Peter today, “you are the ROCK and on this ROCK I will build my church and the gate of Hades will not prevail against it.” Mt. 16:18. Clearly Jesus said: “Upon Peter the Church will be built and not others.” Nowadays, you hear many evangelists rise and claim that they either have the personal revelation from God to evangelize, or that the Church that they found is the “right” one!

My dear friends in Christ, evangelization is what each one of us are called by GOD to do; living and preaching the good news are part of it as well; building the new church is also a way of evangelization, but IT MUST be in COMMUNION with the Church that Christ built/found – upon Peter, the Rock! Because if it is not part of Jesus’ Church, then we are building my church, your church or our church!

If Jesus is the owner/founder and builder of the church, then you begin to wonder: “where then do I come in?” We come in precisely where Peter comes in. Together with Peter we are the building blocks of the church. Peter is the foundation rock and we are the pieces of stone with which the church is built.If the priest was able to walk from one side of the lake to the other, and he claimed that he walked on rock, then it must be that there were many rocks that he stepped on!

Each one of us is called to be a rock, little or big to build the church that Jesus had laid the foundation on the corner stone rock – Peter. Some of us, like me, might not even be a small rock but rather the sand or cement to keep the rocks together.

The way we live our lives in words, deeds, and actions are how we contribute to build Jesus’ Church!So my dear friends, what do you have to contribute? What have you done to contribute into building your own family? Have you place some “rock of love, compassion and gentleness as the foundation?” But the most important question is: What have you contribute to build Jesus’ Church?

Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong
www.fathermartino.org

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