The Church’s Radical Amen

23 Apr
The Great Amen

The Great Amen

 Does it ever seem like the Catholic Church says no a lot? It seems like Catholics walk around telling the world: no to fish on Fridays, no to sex outside of marriage, no to the death penalty, etc. Catholics often overemphasize certain negative messages of the Church, especially regarding below the belt issues. On the other hand, people are often more comfortable with the negative message because it is easier than the real message of the Church. What is that message? It is a resounding yes, an amen to God who is Love.

  In the end, the Church does not have a negative mission. To borrow from Karl Barth, the “no” of the Church is merely the shadow of the “yes.” However, people are much more comfortable with the constraints of the shadow. The dazzling freedom of saying yes to God’s love, and therefore, of giving a loving yes to all people is terrifying. In the end, it leads all Christians to the cross. The mission of Catholics is showing the world what this amen looks like. It looks like the charity and justice of the Dorothy Day Center in St Paul. We see it in Masses celebrated in parishes from St. Joan of Arc to St. Agnes.
I am inviting non-believers to join in the Church’s response to God and His works. What is this response? It is an amen to God’s creation and His law and prophets. We say amen to Jesus’ Incarnation, Death and Resurrection.

It is an amen to the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Our amen can be found in the defense of life and advocacy of justice for the poor and immigrants. Jesus modeled this Amen for us by constantly saying amen to the Father even unto death.

  In Jesus, God proposes marriage to humanity and, thus, the Church is the Bride of Christ who says yes to His proposal. We, the Church, often fail in saying yes to Jesus; because, we so often cast the painful no of judgment and hypocrisy at the world. But God does not turn from humanity, as St. Paul wrote, “for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.”

  The Church does say no sometimes but this no is the shadow of her yes. When Catholics say no to Satan, we are saying yes to Christ; when we say no to war, we are saying yes to peace; when we say no to institutional poverty, we are saying yes to social justice. I hope that our readers will see this amen to God’s love as it is lived out in the world by Catholics. And please forgive us for our failures to say yes. We Catholics are sinners trying to say yes to God so that the Church will not be “yes and no” but “always Yes” to God and to all people.

-Terence Sweeney

2 Responses to “The Church’s Radical Amen”

  1. Paul Foley April 24, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    Well written. I had not thought of it this way, so like the insight.

  2. Kari April 24, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Love this Terence… well done!

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