Who Issues The Invitation To The Table?

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Psalm 8 "ah, what is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him?

Yet you have made him little less than a god; you have crowned him with glory and splendour. Made him lord over the work of your hands, set all things under his feet."

It is frightening to think that God gave us such responsibility and power knowing we have so little control over ourselves. He left the earth in our care and look what we are doing to it. He left the Church in our care and look at the state it is in. Yet, just as He knew we could make a mess of things He also knew we had the potential to achieve what He had envisaged for us. He created us, did He not?

The title for this piece comes from you Tom. When you said "It is important to realise who issued the invitation to come to the table" you set me on a new avenue of thought. The experience I described the other night was a devastating experience, but good in that it brings me into a new space. It was growthful, and while I could hold anger around it, if it hadn't happened I wouldn't have the opportunity to explore in this way. The advantage of the group is that if you really want to work you can get a hell of a lot done!

Jesus issues the invitation to me, through my Baptism, to come to the Eucharistic Table. I issue the invitation to Him to come to the family table. I believe Jesus is present at the family tables of all those who believe there is a power greater than themselves responsible for their existence and the gifts they have received; whether or not they are Baptised.

I am in the process of working out an ecclesiology (if I may call it that) for myself, i.e. an understanding of what the Institutional Church is and will be for me in the future and what role I will play in it. What is Church as the People of God and what role will I play in that? I am aware that I need to detach from the Institutional Church in a definitive way and yet maintain some kind of working relationship with it. It might be a little bit like the difference between a colleague and a friend. I think I could be a colleague to the Institutional Church and a friend to the Church as People of God. I can no longer live under the dominance of the Institutional Church but I can sift through its' teachings to inform my conscience. I don't mean by this that I will take what is comfortable and leave what is not. There are many things about the Institutional Church which I cannot, in all honesty, sit comfortably with; its maleness, its dominance, its oppression, its ill use of power, its tendency to be exclusive, its wealth and its unwillingness to admit its mistakes. Despite this I have always been very blessed by my contact with those who have given their lives to God in the Institutional Church

Through my Baptism I am, I believe, invited to be a full member of the Roman Catholic Church. I am not a full member since I have no voting rights, I am not consulted, I cannot be ordained, I am not allowed to give a homily at Mass, I am not allowed an administrative role in Church affairs and so on. I do want and yearn to respond to Jesus' invitation to follow Him. Since there are so many obstacles within the Institutional Church preventing me from participating fully then I must find another way.

The other way for me is the Church as People of God. This Church is in the houses and on the streets. It happens where people meet each other. I am aware that for many years now this has been were my Church is. I approach the Eucharistic Table, I pray the Prayer of the Institutional Church and I consult the clergy where necessary for my spiritual growth and development. I rarely refuse when asked to perform a task for the Institutional Church but, I live in the Church as People of God. It is in this Church that I share the Good News with others, I try to teach and preach, to live and love in this Church, with real people in real situations. There is no domination here, no wealth, no power, jealousy maybe, and plenty of disagreement, but no 'us and them' because we are all in it together. True, the Institutional Church has control of the Sacraments and there are frequent disputes around who may or may not receive them. People need to break the Word and share it together, understanding it at an adult level, before they approach the Sacraments. Without the Word the Sacraments have no meaning. Ask, at random, half a dozen fifteen year olds what they remember about their First holy Communion and you will hear about the party, the dress and the money, nothing about the Sacrament. The important Sacrament for me is the Eucharist and I will respond to Jesus' invitation to me to come to His Table, regardless of what the Institutional Church says. I will however, always remember and respect the fact that one must approach this Table with humility and in a pure state.

In this Church as People of God I depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. Once I can maintain an openness to hear the Word of God and allow the Spirit of God to work through me I'm on the right track. Jesus has His own ways of letting me know if I have veered off the beaten track. When He felt I was too far out on a limb He steered me towards the Dominicans, linking with the Institutional Church but not overpowered or disabled by it.

The Church of the past was in the hands of women and the Church of the future will continue to be in the hands of women. Women continue to be the main nurturers of children. They are the first teachers of the children and it is in the heart of the family that children will first hear the Word of God. It was the mothers who nurtured the vocations of their children for priesthood and religious life and mothers who packed the bags of those children whom they were handing over to the Church. The Church makes a major mistake by continuing to alienate women in a time of enlightenment when women are more independent, more questioning, and more likely to seek the justice and equality Jesus intended for us.

" For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mk 10: 45

Quotes taken form the Jerusalem Bible.

Anne Marie Lee 17th Dec. '01

-- Anonymous, December 17, 2001

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