Friday, August 09, 2019

As the world slept

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mk 4:26-29).

Before its reputation became so tarnished by the clerical abuse scandal, the Catholic church bestrode the world stage. It used to be a major player in geopolitics. Therein lay much of its appeal for many. If Jesus founded a universal church, surely that's what it will look like. Big, conspicuous, spread out. Compared to that, Protestant denominations seem so provincial and piecemeal. 

This dovetails with the claim of Catholic apologists that Jesus founded a visible church (i.e. unified hierarchical organization). It has a visible head (the pope). 

But compare that to Christ's kingdom parable about the seed growing at night. In that respect, God's kingdom is invisible. It grows at night while the farmer sleeps. It grows at night while the world sleeps. In the Synoptics, the church and the kingdom of God are closely related categories. 

In that respect, the church represents a silent revolution. It grows and spreads under cover of darkness. The world is caught off-guard. The church escapes the notice of the world until it suddenly becomes unmistakable. The church takes root and spreads where the world least suspects it. Consider the underground church in China. Consider Christian revival in the heart of the Muslim world, due to dreams and visions of Jesus. Consider how the Pentecostal movement swept over Latin America. 

In that respect, the world visibility of the Catholic church is antithetical to the kingdom of God. The progress of the kingdom is unexpected and unpredictable. It happens where you're not looking. The universality of the church isn't to be found in the neon signage of Roman Catholicism, but in surprising places. In corners and backwaters which the world overlooks until it's too late to ignore.     

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