As we observe the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on a church door to begin the event we now call The Reformation - it is important to put the hopes we all harbour for improving the church in a richer perspective. Hindsight, or history if we do it in the broadest context, is a valuable tool. A powerful resource emerging from what we call memory – remembering.
Re-formation – a Protesting process
Luther wanted to reform the Church. In fact, he started a process which led to ever more local expressions of church - local language, leadership, identity. Eventually this re-forming process produced extreme sects and in due course, reinforced by the Enlightenment, it has produced extreme individualism. My ‘faith’ defines me. Today the perpetual reinvention of personal identity as fueled by fashion and encounter with new possibilities. Each person claims a right to be acknowledged in their preferred identity. Institutions are seen as restrictive and leadership becomes a popularity enterprise to gather as many ‘followers’ as possible.
Re-formation – a Catholic calling
A more Catholic tradition has always offered a different approach to re-formation. The foundational call to confession, which puts ‘me’ in a bigger context, owing duties to church, society, God. ‘My’ faith is a gift from the Grace of God, an energy which purges and perfects ‘me’ into being a part of a Body – humble, dependent, seeing only as through a glass darkly.
Holy Week and Easter
The heart of our faith is acted out in Holy Week and Easter – a deeply personal, individual journey for all concerned. For disciples a time of betrayal, confusion, uncertainty – yet capped by the surprising gift of grace – encounter with the Risen Lord. In the Eucharist we remember this defining journey. As we take seriously our Lord’s words ‘do this in remembrance of Me,’ we are joined to Him in being re-membered: our mortal parts amazingly restored into a mysteriously glorious Body – me a member, with many other members, re–membered into God’s Holy people. This is the ultimate act of re-formation, in body, mind and spirit. As we prepare and then celebrate Easter this month, perhaps we should reflect upon the dangers of reformation so easily becoming my attempt to make God and the world in my image. A process of perpetual protest against all that does not suit ‘me.’ Rather let us prepare carefully to participate in Christ, in re-membering Him, ourselves, our church’s calling. Then we might taste a true act of re-formation.