There’s an episode of M.A.S.H. where Hawkeye is under house arrest, in his tent. Frank Burns mockingly stands at the entrance and hops in and out saying, “I can go in and I can go out.” He does this enough to really frustrate Hawkeye.
That’s our society and that is our Church. It has never been “either/or” but it is only “both/and.” Our world is not “either or” society or Church. The U.S. should never be a Christian nation tolerating Jews, Muslims, Mormons or any other religious flavor. If you’d like a religious nation, move to Iran.
Our society only works with “both and” because we need and support each other. The Church is never always right and our society is never always right. We can all think of numerous examples to illustrate each.
What does our society yearn for each day? Unity, harmony, equality as best as we can acquire. The Church prays for these everyday.
The Catholic Church in all its wonder, mystery and powers uses what to illustrate its great salvation history? Simple stuff. Stuff we take for granted everyday. Stuff of the earth. We then take that stuff and make it greater, meaningful and “full of grace.” How more basic can you get then water? In the Church, water baptizes and propels you into this world with all the blessings God can garner. Water welcomes you and alerts you that you are about to enter a holy place. Water is the humanity that is mixed with the wine’s divinity. It’s a quick priestly gesture but without it the Church would be left without purpose. Jesus tells us today that it’s in the bread. It’s in the bread. It is not in some magical formula that the Church invented to illustrate Christ in our world. It is not a mysterious potion that we would have concocted to show the universal love of God. We would have gotten it wrong. It is in the bread. That silly afterthought wheat that sandwiches our ham, turkey, cheese, peanut butter and anything else we can think of to place between that silly afterthought wheat. Bread.
The Church can say the same about oil, incense, a candle, words, musical notes, cloth, imperfect priests (well, most of them) and you because there is no Church without you.
The current crop of U.S. Bishops keep lamenting our “secular” society as though it should be a “religious” society. How wrong they are. We need a “secular” society to house all the wonderfully diverse and too frequent sad mishaps that occur on a daily basis. Without a secular society you wouldn’t need a morning paper with all its gossip and current events. Without a Church there would be no vehicle or container to inform and influence society with something always greater and more rewarding than itself. A society looks only after itself and a good Church always looks outside itself to the most neediest, those most hurting, all those left behind, that child in the womb, that immigrant who needs a place to stay, that unemployed worker who wants to work and that teenager who wants to know a little more about Jesus.
We don’t hop in and out of society or the Church. We live within each – affecting and responding to each other.
Bread, water, oil, candles and imperfect folks. We take them from a “secular” society and make them sacred through the Church. We then, and here’s the important part, send them out to do something good and beneficial in society for the good of both society and the Church. Because you see if you stay in the Church you become isolated like a monk. If that’s your life, go for it. But if you live in society and ground yourself in the Church then you are a disciple, a breadwinner because you’ve eaten the simple bread of society and have recognized it as Jesus, the Christ.