God has been wooing His people since the beginning of time, the most persistent yet gentle lover in all of history. No matter how many times we sinners have turned to other idols to satisfy our desires, He’s kept right on chasing after us, ready to satisfy our hearts’ deepest longings just as soon as we give Him the chance to. Like Mary, our continued “Yes” to God will allow him to enter into us and make himself ever more present in our lives, both as individuals and as His collective Church.
But we encounter a problem.
Somewhere around the year 1517, Jesus became a polygamist.
WHOA THERE, you say. And rightly so. What a ridiculous concept. Jesus, God incarnate, the perfect lover, having multiple wives? How can this be? The model for all husbands, splitting His time between His lawfully wedded, til-death-do we-part Bride, and then still looking for something else on the side? “Blasphemy!” we want to cry.
[Pause for disclaimer: we’re still talking in terms of metaphor here – don’t fly off the deep end and go all Da Vinci Code on me.]
And it doesn’t stop there. Christ is the worst (or perhaps most successful, depending on how you look at it) player and polygamist of all time. For he doesn’t just have another gal or two on the side. More like 40,000. Even Hugh Hefner would have a hard time contending with that.
And these 40,000 others don’t claim to be His “stuff on the side.” Far from it. Nearly every one claims to be His One-and-Only, His legitimate Bride. Now, this simply cannot be. This isn’t Utah after all [sorry Utah, just kidding – we all know you’ve outlawed polygamy too].
But Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is the Bride. And that is singular. But we’ve somehow gotten to the point over the course of the past 500 years where we’ve wound up with 40,000 Brides. And, surely, one saddened Bridegroom.
How did this happen? It wasn’t Christ. He’s been chasing after a covenantal relationship with His one Bride since the time of Abraham (and even before that). In the ultimate example of how a husband is to love, He even died on a cross for her. He certainly hasn’t been looking to fractionalize His love; He founded His One Church, and he anxiously awaits the day at the end of time when he will be fully reunited with this Bride of His once again, at the wedding feast of the lamb.
So, where do we go from here? To write about a problem and not a solution would be quite negligent. Unfortunately, a solution to such a problem can probably safely be considered beyond the scope of a brief conclusion to an already brief blog. I’ll offer at least a few thoughts though, for whatever they’re worth:
- Pray. Here we must follow the example of our Lord and Savior, who prays not only that His followers be one, but even that they be perfectly one (cf. John 17:23). And while indeed we can pray for Church unity, what may be even more effective is to simply pray for one person in our lives, faithfully and consistently, that they may be led home. It’s a wonderful start.
- Remember who we are. No one’s going to be interested in and excited in being a part of Jesus’ Catholic Church, if we as Catholics aren’t interested in and excited about it ourselves. It’s going to be hard to convince our Protestant brothers and sisters to become a part of the Catholic community if the “Catholic community” is a lukewarm gathering of half-awake Christians. And we need to come back to the deepest part of who we are, the source and summit of our faith: We are a people of the Eucharist. Until we get that back, we’ll be just as stuck in the cultural identity crisis as anyone else. Spend an hour mulling that over at Eucharistic Adoration before this Lent is over.
- Tell other people who we are. Once we get excited about the Faith ourselves, the next step is to share it with others. St. Francis famously said, “Preach the Gospel always; and when necessary use words.” We mustn’t forget that sometimes it is necessary to use words. Don’t make it into something bigger or scarier than it is though. 99% of us would hesitate to call ourselves “evangelists,” but I’d be willing to bet any money that many of us actually are. It can be simple as having a loving conversation or sharing a good book with the people in our everyday lives. We’re all part of this – it’s not just on the priests. Take courage, and simply share your life!
The Church is the most beautiful Bride there ever was or ever will be. That beauty will be infinitely richer if it can become whole once again, and Jesus can focus His total love on His one-and-only Bride forevermore at the great Wedding Feast of Heaven.