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sinWhen I was an Anglican I was extremely familiar with the idea that within the Church there were many parties. If forced into it, I would identify myself as an Anglo-Catholic, but even within that sub-group there were many varieties of Christian, and for preference I identified myself as a Christian. I still do. I prefer liturgies which are conducted in a reverent fashion, and modern life being what it is, they tend to be the older ones; I prefer old music to new, old fashions to new, and old wives to new; as I get older, the more set in these things I become but they are not new preferences.

Jesus challenges me every day. He makes all things new, and I have an instinctive aversion to the new. But every day Jesus tells me that I must make the attempt to love those whom I do not love, and I must direct my efforts toward helping my fellow men and women when, left to the comforts of my old ways, I could simply help myself. He reminds me that my ways are not God’s ways unless they are directed towards the furtherance of God’s will. He tells me that the world is there to be changed into the place which it was meant to be, and one day will be so; and He asks me what I am doing to aid that.

How much more comfortable it is to retreat into theological contemplation, or into the arguments over whether Vatican II is the worst thing to happen to the Church. These are familiar fields over which I can tramp without too much effort, and where I could dig a trench, put up some barbed wire and fire salvoes off against those pesky liberals.  But there’s that pressure from Jesus, who tells me that these are my fellow Catholics, and that we are Christians and we should love one another, and when I shrug and say ‘well are they really Christian?’ He goes silent and gives me a look which says I know the answer to that question, and invites me to feel ashamed at having made the comment. And in that look, I know myself to be a sounding brass and a clanging cymbal

He directs me to the witness I give. Not that His Church gives, because His Church is made up of billions of Catholics, of whom I am one; indeed, He knows that His Church has boundaries beyond my visions. I know that having been forgiven much, I need to do to others what has been done to me, and that the hermeneutic of continuity in Christianity if Christ’s love for us all.

Yes, Grace brought me to the certainty that the Catholic Church is where I was being directed, and in love I would wish others to have that Grace and knowledge. But I will not lead anyone to it by a lack of love, and I will simply bear witness to what the many enemies of the Church say of it.

As with all things that are inhabited by fallen mankind, the Church is full of sinners, and when I have removed that beam from my own eye, I shall get right round to pointing out that mote in the eyes of others.