Yesterday my preaching highlighted St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians and I told you about the principle concern of the Apostle Paul in that letter- the identity and mission of the Church.
What is the identity and mission of the Church?
The Church is the New Israel, a New Israel that has been transformed by God in Christ and given the mission of bearing into the world the invitation to know the one, true God and share communion with his divine life. This is the identity and mission that God in Christ gives to his Church and this identity and mission takes priority and judges any other understanding that we might have in regards to the Church.
When we get this right, and know what the Church is, then the Church will flourish in her mission. When we get this wrong, then the Church falters in her mission. The signs of a faltering Church are seen most especially in our time in what Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict before him) described as a “self referential Church”, this means that the true identity and mission of the Church has been usurped by our own causes and agendas- in attempts, not to be the Church Christ wants, but a counterfeit Church, a counterfeit Church that we make up for ourselves, that serves our own interests and ratifies our opinions and ideologies.
Such a counterfeit Church is not so much in the world, but it is simply an imitation of the world itself.
Such a counterfeit Church cannot cast the light of Christ into the world, and in fact, it intensifies the darkness.
The counterfeit Church cannot introduce people to Christ because it does not really know him, and if it does know him, it has refused to accept him for who he really and truly is.
St. Paul sternly warns the Galatians about preferring a counterfeit Church to the real Church- and he warns us about this as well.
The refusal of Christ illuminates for us the meaning of today’s Gospel in which some accuse Christ as being in league with the evil one and a servant of fallen spiritual powers.
This is blasphemy.
Christ insists that those who are gambling that he is a servant of dark powers are really taking their chances and need to seriously consider what will happen when the truth of his identity is revealed and they see him for who he really is- the God of Israel, who has come to wrest his people free from the influence of dark and dangerous spiritual powers.
What will they do when this truth is revealed? How then, will they deal with the consequences of their blasphemy?
Then he makes the point that the evil one is indeed strong, but Christ is infinitely stronger and not only will he defeat the evil one, but he will take from him what the evil one has unjustly stolen. And what has the evil one unjustly stolen? Our own hearts, minds, indeed our very souls.
We surrender ourselves to the power of the evil one when our desires for wealth, pleasure, power and honors are given a place of ultimacy in our lives, when we make these things like gods, and dedicate our lives to serving and attaining these things. Those who serve the attainment of wealth, pleasure, power and honors are prisoners of the evil one and Christ has come in the full force of his divine power to set these prisoners free!
Once we have been set free, once we have been rescued, what then will we do? We cannot return to our lives as they were before, doing that leaves us even more vulnerable to the influence and power of the evil one.
Instead, we must give our lives over to Christ, making him our priority. Only when we do this will the power (of Christ), stronger than the power of the evil one, keep us safe and secure.