|God's Judgment Upon the Church|
|Written by Michael Fones|
|Tuesday, 08 July 2008 15:56|
While preparing for a talk I gave at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle, I came across an article on Divine Judgment that included a concept that I had not heard about before: God's continuous judgment, which can be applied to the Church, a nation, or an individual. I found the section on God's continuous judgment of the Church particularly telling.
The continuous judgment of God upon the Church does not directly affect its external success or temporal well-being; for these are not matters that are directly involved in its mission. But the Church as such will live a fervent life of faith, worship, unity, love, and apostolic concern as a consequence of God's judgment upon a submissive response of the Church's members to the guidance of His Spirit within the Church. Or else, the Church can experience division, formalism, defections, apostolic ineffectiveness, and scandal as God's judgment on those who seek the things that are their own and not the things of Jesus Christ. No one in the Church can excuse himself of responsibility before God as judge because of his position; nor can the Church as a whole expect that, no matter what its response to God may be, its mission will be as abundantly fruitful and its witness to the world as unambiguously clear just because God is at work within it. New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967: Divine Judgment.
According to this understanding of God's judgment applied to the Church today - and by Church, I mean all of us, together - the fiscal health of our parishes and dioceses (or lack of it) is not a measure of God's judgment. The amount of money in our banks or the beauty of our buildings is not directly involved in our mission to evangelize the world.
But insofar as we experience division (33830 Christian denominations and counting, liberal/conservative/traditionalist labels within the Church), formalism (an emphasis on ritual and observance, over their meanings), defections (10% of Americans are former Catholics), apostolic ineffectiveness (how many adult baptisms or professions of faith in your parish last Easter Vigil?) and scandal (clergy sexual abuse, fiscal irresponsibility, N. Ireland's "troubles") we should see these problems as a judgment upon all of us. It is a sign that we are not submissive to the Holy Spirit, and that we are seeking our own will, rather than the will of God.
God's continuous judgment can sometimes be seen in disasters, like the flood recounted in Genesis, or the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In both of those cases, the judgment was based on the behavior of many, many individuals - of a people. We, as a Catholic people, need to see the problems facing the Church not as the problems of the hierarchy, or because of a sinful world, but as a supernatural consequence of the behavior and attitude of millions of individuals. God's judgment will change with the change of each individual heart!