It is time to imagine a different sort of Church. It is time to discover new ways of looking at our religious reality to advance our common good, well this seems to be the opinion of Pope Francis anyway.
However, it can be difficult for us to imagine anything different from what has always been. As Tony Judt asks in Ill Fares the Land, “Why is it beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?”
This Sunday the Church is celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord, but we can have the same trouble imagining what resurrection is as we have in dreaming up a new set of arrangements to our common advantage.
Recently we read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It sounds attractive, especially in a society that spends so much money on prolonging life even for just a short time.
But is it so attractive? The story of Lazarus is not about resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection saw him burst into a new and entirely different type of life and existence, but Lazarus was only resuscitated, returning to the same old grind that he left with the prospect of facing the death agony all over again.
While that does not sound all that attractive, it is what we keep doing in politics, with newspapers full of endless tweaking of worn and often flawed theories on what we at least know does not work well.
We do it in economic planning and social policies as well. The fact that most people that go to prison go back again does not prompt many questions, the fact that the children of those who live in poverty mostly end up in poverty often produces not much more than a shrug.
If we had a hospital system with anything like the same failure rate there would be a terrible racket kicked up in the city.
But we also know that we have a Church that is failing in many areas. Ireland, which was once the never-ending supply of clerical labour to the English-speaking Church, and other countries as well, is facing the prospect of whole dioceses without a priest.
We also now know that the Church has failed miserably in addressing the scandal of sexual abuse.
In addition, it increasing struggles to find an ear in the midst of the secularism of today, as if it is lost for a word that can resonate in the hearts of the majority of people.
Yet we are blessed with a pope who does have a vision that goes beyond resuscitation and, while maybe not quite resurrection, certainly more than tweaking the flawed and ineffective.
Yet the lack of imagination on the part of many tends to hold him back as he continues to prod beyond the tried and found wanting for new visions of common advancement.
Pope Francis is not what we are accustomed to. Gone is the academic discourse and in is the narrative, as he strives to bring discernment to the fore in the life of the Church, and out of narrative discernment evolves.
It is a challenge to the imagination of the Church to move out of its long-held confines and look to the Easter Christ that we celebrate. The message of Easter, “Resurrect or perish!” JiM