Saturday, November 01, 2008

The marginal are the centre of the Church...

Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be! Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters - they require our first attention.

We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreements, fruitless debates, and paralysing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish. The Church will always be renewed when our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care. The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor. The most remarkable experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive. They give food to us.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
Following on from yesterday's post, Nouwen underlines what seems to me to lie at the heart of being church, in the sense of being the body of Christ in the world. It seems to me that there are two sides to this, but they are two sides of the one thing. There is the mystical side, the unity of the Church in the Eucharist - "though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in the one bread..." - and there is the unity of the Church in mercy, in being Christ to the world, and that brings us straight to the poor. As St. Teresa of Avila said:
Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.
Jesus' own job description from Isaiah 61, quoted in Luke 4.18, leaves us in no doubt:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free...


  1. You have given me some real food for prayer and thought here - I am already wanting to meditate on how the edge is at the center.

    I have thought of this before, but your posts ask me to reflect on this with new eyes and a new heart Mike.

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Mike.