By Fr Philip Fogarty THE Church of ,Christ is "IL essentially a Church of Love. Love is its cornerstone, love its deep foundation. But we may ask with justice whether a modern man sees in the Church of today a family of love?
"Very often," one modern writer puts it, "it must he admitted, the Church as it presents itself to us, does not appear to he a living community, ready to receive all men with warm charity. Many are put off by a certain coldness, a lack of human openness, by an outward pomp, which are to them unfathomable. Without knowing it they seek a family, very often they find only an administration. It is they who are right, and who remind us of what we ought to be." (Louis Lochet.) At times, the Church of Christ does seem to lack human warmth. That it is an effective administration, no one can deny. That it is a powerful wierldwide, well ruled organisation is obvious to all. But the Church's vocation is not to be simply a well run business enterprise, a highly efficient world-wide organisation for dispensing eternal life.
Rather it is meant to be a living, vital community whose members are bound one to the other by the knot of an allembracing love. The all-important element in a Christian's life is his love of God, and his love for his fellow men. "If anyone says that he loves God, and does not love his brothee, that man is a liar." (1 John 4 20.)
The motto of the body of Christ is and always has been "Love one another". This is the very centre of Christianity. But it is precisely here that so many Christians fail and hence cause so much scandal to those outside the Church. There are many, too many, Christians who fail to see that their religion is a matter of love, not simply of fulfilling external laws and duties. What is Christian love?
Christ says "Love one another". He does not just say "Tolerate one another," or simply "he charitable to one another" in the pejorative sense. No. he says "Love one another." But love is something solid, something concrete, something that concerns persons, individuals. Christ asks us to love our neighbour, the man next door, the man beside us in the office, the people in our own family and not just some vague abstraction called "Humanity" or "All men".
"My candles have burnt out at the carved, archaic feet, "While I passed the poor man by with broken boots in the street.
"1 have said to the worn face of the polished, darkworn wood,
'"Lord, Lord!' i was mute to Love's substance in flesh and blood."
(Caryl Houslander) We are to love those around us, those with whom we daily come in contact. What does this mean? To love someone in the Christian sense, means that there is a mutual communication, to use the term of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
That is to say that the lover gives to the person loved of what he possesses or at least a part of what he possesses. So, if one person is knowledgable, he shares his knowledge with one who is not: so too for honours and riches; and all this is a mutual giving. (Contemplation for Obtaining Love.)
It is here precisely that many of us fall down. We refuse. for a multitude of reasons, to try to cross this trench. We are too proud, or too timid; afraid of what others will say or think, or perhaps. just too selfish to bother taking the effort. And we justify our actions with every conceivable argument.
The other person, we say, is not worth knowing; we have nothing in common; he is too conceited and will not listen to us, etc. Or perhaps we do concede to talk to him but all the time we are just using words to hide our disdain. We talk and talk but we never listen. There is no DIALOGUE, no mutual communication.
To overcome this we must start by realising that we ourselves are not self-sufficient, that we have need of other people and they of us. This requires humility and honesty with ourselves. And not only must we realise that we need others but we must be ready to accept them as they are, not as we want them to be.
In love we try to see and understand other people in and for themselves. To talk to others, to dialogue, means that we try to become other people. Our attitude should be one of openness, acceptance, and not one of criticism. Dr. Johnson has said: "God Himself, Sir. does not wish to judge others before the end of their days." Why should we?
This lack of dialogue often permeates the whole structure of the Church. In the past it has led to senseless divisions, mutual recriminations and useless controversy. It has been a major obstacle in the path of the spread of the Word of God. Today the presence of dialogue must help us to avoid the errors of the past, and help us enter into the mentality of
modern man, seeing what he thinks, hopes and fears.
Here our supreme example is Christ, Christ interested himself with people, with individuals. He took them as they were. He dined with sinners, he spoke in her own terms to the woman at the well in Samaria. His stories and examples were all concerned with the daily happenings of those about him.
He never tried to force his ideas on people. Rather, he listened, saw their point of view, entered into a dialogue. Isn't this exactly his attitude in dealing with Nicodemus? Isn't this also the present attitude of the Church towards all nonCatholics? Our duty is to listen to others, hear what they have to say, try and understand them. This is the only way to union, this is the way of Love.
Listen to St. Paul: "I may speak with every tongue that men and angels use; yet if I lack Charity, I am no better than echoing bronze. or the clash of cymbals . . . Charity is patient, is kind; Charity feels no envy, .Charity is never perverse or proud, never insolent, . . Charity sustains, believes, hopes, endures to the last. (I Cor. 13. 1-7.) This then is our path. We arc to enter into a mutual communication with our fellow men. This is a vital step in the modern world. We are lying in an age dedicated to technical progress, where all the problems of humanity, of Continents or nations tend to be thought of in terms of demand and satisfaction for the masses.
In this world the individual is often lost from view. The State treats him as part of a whole, like an object among other objects. His individuality is not respected. There is legislation to protect him against hunger and injustice, but legislatio cannot give him the love and hope he needs if he is to develop as a human being. Our technical industrialised world is full of people who are starved of human love' and understanding.
Many of those who flood our factories and offices. who throng our cities are lost and alone in a sea of human beings. They are cut off from one another by many of the things that go to make up our *modern civilisation, not least by those that provide our entertainment, radio, television, cinema. Al! these can and do prevent communication between people on a human, personal level. In consequence people are starved of love and understanding.
More than ever, today, there is need for dialogue, mutual understanding and love. More than ever is there a lack of these
very things. And here is the point. We Catholics, we Christians. must cross the trench that divides us from one another. We must stop fooling ourselves that we love one another when in fact we are only tolerating one another or simply living and working side by side.
Unless we enter into a genuine dialogue there will be no love. And when we are not loving our fellow men, we are no longer in love with Christ or his Father.
Today, as yesterday, God addresses us these harsh words of the Apocalypse: "I know your conduct, you are neither hot nor cold—would that you were one or the other?—But since you are simply lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth." (Apoc. 3. 14.) Hard words indeed, but they are the words of a loving God. We Catholics, religious as well as lay, must heed them. Too often we are dominated by our petty pride, susceptibilities and jealousies. We are half-hearted. luke-warm Catholics. "The good lack all conviction, the bad are Continued on Page 9, Col. I