WHAT IS THE CHURCH TO YOU? A Prayer Reflection for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Yr. A

Whatever image you make of the church shall determine your motivation for going to church. Are you going to church because you want to worship God, learn something new by hearing the word of God? Are you going to church the way people go to hospitals or clinics only when they are sick? Do you go to church because you want to express yourself: your sense of fashion, your singing or praying skills, or some other motives. If the image of the church you have in mind is distorted, then your motives will be distorted, but if it is truly what the church is, then you're likely to have the right motivation.
If you want to know the true image of the Church (what a church should be) then read slowly: (Isaiah 56:1,6-7)

"Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.  Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."

1. From the Word of God we read above, the Church is first and foremost a "house of Prayer" and "Holy Mountain" where God bestows Joy to his people. Is this the image you see?

2. The Church is the "People of God United by Faith" not "denominations", hence it is not factional or for a group of persons only, but includes those we consider outside "our circle" hence the scriptures says it includes "foreigners who love God and obey his commands." Is this the image you see? Do you not sometimes become judgemental of others because they don't belong to "your Church"? Or reject them because they practice something you don't fully understand?
In fact Jesus's dialogue with the Canaanite woman in the gospel according to Matthew 15: 21-28 reveals the tensions between the understanding of the Church as an exclusive society and an inclusive society. Faith in the One Triune God who sent His Son into the world to redeem it is the criteria of belonging. The type of faith that believes, that unites, that perseveres, and that prays and never gives up in difficulties.
3. The church is the People of God that are "faithful to the covenant" not those who profane it with dynamic emotivity! Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord describes his people as those "who cling to my covenant, not profaning it." Covenants have binding responsibilities and consequences. Hence those who enter it live it out by certain patterns of behavior and action, not by profane dynamic emotivity! But what do you see today? We see profane dynamisms that are Christianised and described as "manifestation of the Spirit or being in the spirit." 
Even though scripture says "the Spirit blows where it wills" (John 3:8); "where it wills" should not be taken to mean "irregularities in action and belief, or unnecessary emotivities in the name of being in the spirit, but the liberty of the Holy Spirit to use anyone to actualize the ONE same plan of God- the salvation of man! 
4. The Church is a society of people who "care for justice and act with Integrity". The Church is not a society of persons who support injustice and alienation of the poor. Rather the church speaks against every oppression and injustice in all its forms and expression whether by the government or individuals. The church is also a people of integrity! Integrity means "being known for quality and non-compromising". How many "churches" today have integrity? How many speak against oppression and stands for justice? Are many of them not exploiting the flock of God today?

TASK: Ask yourself: What image of the Church do I have? What have I turned the Church into? Have I turned it into a Hospital that I visit only when I am sick and stay off when I am well? Have I made it a place to emphasize factions, cliques, gangs, etc? Have I imported profane practices (things Jesus never did or what authentic Christian faith abhors) because I want to impress others or be famous? How is my pattern of prayers? Is it babbles or based on the word of God?
Don't just go to Church, Be the church!

Many assemblies today claiming the title "Church" cannot go through these litmus test and stand. Which "Church" do you think has these marks and have remained faithful to these God-given principles for ages? The only openness to the TRUTH will provide you the answer.  God bless you! Amen. 

© Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ

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